Antitrust Lawyer Blog Commentary on Current Developments

FTC Wins Case Against Immigration Service Scammers

On April 11, 2014, the FTC won a court judgment against an illegal immigrant services scam. The court has ordered the defendants, Manuel and Lola Alban of Loma International Business Group, Inc. liable for $616,000 in refunds to Spanish immigrants. The court noted the severe nature of the case due to the amount of harm suffered by the customers. Several were deported and another was jailed for almost 11 months, according to the court. The court found that according to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services data, the agency denied or rejected more than 60 percent of the immigration applications handled by the Albans.

In March of 2013, the court found the Albans to have violated the FTC act by illegally providing immigration services to Salvadorian and Honduran immigrants, even though neither they nor their employees were licensed to provide any such services. Under federal regulations, only authorized providers, aside from attorneys, may accept money in exchange for preparing immigration forms on someone else’s behalf.

Despite this, the court found that the Albans took in an estimated $479,000 to $753,000 from unsuspecting immigrants.  “Misleading people to steal their money and destroy their dreams crosses the line,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC is here to protect people from just these kinds of scams.”

The court order requires Manuel Alban and his wife Lola Alban to pay the refund judgment in installments totaling up to $616,000, depending on the number of victims the FTC is able to locate to receive a refund.

In addition, the order prohibits the defendants, their employees, and others representing them from providing immigration services, misrepresenting anything about goods or services they are promoting.  It also requires all customer information held by the defendants to be destroyed, and all customer information held by a court-ordered monitor to be turned over to the FTC.

The FTC has information in Spanish that explains how to find legitimate free or low-cost immigration advice from authorized providers, and where to report immigration services fraud. Because scammers target immigrants from around the world, the FTC’s immigration-related materials (found here) are also in Chinese, Korean, Kreyòl and Vietnamese.

Mark Ye
202-589-1834
mye@dbmlawgroup.com