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Massachusetts AG Healey warns immigrants of fraud and scams



BOSTON – As part of her office’s ongoing efforts to advocate for the state’s immigrant communities, Attorney General Maura Healey announced that her office has ramped up efforts to inform and protect residents from fraudulent immigration law practices.

The multilingual education campaign, first launched in 2018 by the AG’s Community Engagement Division, focuses on providing immigrant communities information about these predatory practices, and the tools and tips necessary to help protect themselves. The AG’s Office has since relaunched its education materials and outreach after hearing from community partners about unscrupulous lawyers taking advantage of their clients and a widespread scam known as “notario fraud,” or the unauthorized practice of immigration law.

“Unfortunately, we continue to see scams targeting immigrant communities and preying on those in need of legal assistance – taking their money and leaving them with little to no help,” said AG Healey. “My office serves as a resource to protect our residents from being cheated and will continue to take action to shut down these illegal practices.”

Scammers lure in victims – often through advertisements and brochures – with promises that may sound too good to be true, including helping to obtain green cards, visas, or legalization in exchange for money. In some cases, victims can be charged up to tens of thousands of dollars for services that are effectively worthless from individuals who are not licensed immigration attorneys.

As part of these ongoing awareness efforts, the AG’s Office will connect with immigrant communities in a number of ways, including multilingual public service announcements or PSAs, social media posts, a targeted website on how to avoid immigration scams, which is available in English, Portuguese, and Spanish, and posters (available in English, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Khmer, and Haitian Creole) with helpful tips. The AG’s Office will also work with community partners and local legislators to help get this information out to the residents who will benefit most from it. The AG’s Community Engagement Division will also hold webinars and in-person trainings on how to identify immigration scams, and ways to protect oneself from them.

Residents are encouraged to take the following steps to avoid immigration law scams:

-Make sure your lawyer is licensed. Only a licensed attorney – or someone specially authorized by the federal government can:
-Represent you in court or before an administrative judge.
-Advise you as to whether or not you should apply for benefits or protections.
-Explain your legal options and give you legal advice.
-Never pay for any immigration forms. They are available for free.
-Never leave your lawyer’s office without receipts for all payments.
-Never sign a blank form.
-Make sure you understand any applications your attorney is making on your behalf.
-Keep all your original personal documents.
-Get copies of everything.

In 2018, the AG’s Office sued George C. Maroun Jr. for allegedly running an asylum scam that made false promises and guarantees of green cards to clients. Maroun also allegedly filed asylum applications without the knowledge or consent of his clients, some of which contained fabricated facts and misrepresentations, and could result in clients being placed in removal proceedings. The AG’s Office went to trial in October 2021 against Maroun in Middlesex Superior Court and currently awaits the court’s decision.

In 2016, Gerson Barahona, a Waltham man was ordered to pay more than $155,760 in restitution to victims, civil penalties, and attorney’s fees, after posing as an immigration lawyer and unlawfully charging hundreds or thousands of dollars for legal advice and services. The AG’s Office sought and obtained a preliminary injunction in December 2014 that required Barahona to cease providing any services related to immigration matters.

To report an immigration scam, call the AG’s Civil Rights Division at (617) 963-2917.

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