Three individuals from Missouri, Thomas Laurence, Thomas Strawbridge, and Elizabeth Meredith, were recently sentenced to 1 to 10 years in prison for a fraudulent immigration scheme. The individuals, none of whom are licensed to practice law, founded a company called Immigration Forms and Publications through which they offered immigration services to unsuspecting customers. Among the many violations, the individuals were found to have led customers to believe they were affiliated with the government, by referring to themselves as “immigration agents” and telling customers they handled overflow calls from the immigration service. Additionally, the individuals provided services without any immigration expertise and without being licensed to offer such services, and charged customers “government fees” for freely available immigration forms.
The scheme for which Laurence, Strawbridge, and Meredith were convicted is egregious, but similar schemes are not uncommon. “Notarios” and other non-lawyers are commonly known for engaging in the unlicensed practice of immigration law and taking advantage of immigrants. Unfortunately, immigration is an area that lends itself to fraud, as many immigrants are unfamiliar with the United States and the immigration process, and do not speak much English. To avoid losing money and jeopardizing your status in the U.S., it is imperative that you seek out a licensed immigration lawyer to help you with your case. Each state bar has a database that can be searched, usually online, to verify a lawyer’s license. The Florida Bar database can be accessed here.
If you think you have been a victim of immigration fraud, please contact your local law enforcement.