Notarios can be much more expensive than attorneysFour businesses in Passaic County New Jersey were issued Notices of Violation this week after they reportedly scammed local immigrants by claiming they could offer certain services. These businesses claimed to be Notarios Publicos, or public notaries, which misled many immigrants from Latin American countries. In many Latin American countries Notarios Publicos have the authority to act as attorneys, provide legal advice, and prepare legal documents on behalf of citizens. In America however, a public notary does not have any of these abilities. All they can do is notarize a document, meaning that the person who signed the document acknowledged to the notary that they are that person. That’s all they can do. And they can only charge a nominal fee for it.

What did these companies do wrong?

By advertising themselves as Notarios Publicos these companies mislead the members of their local immigrant communities, and this is obviously a wrong and illegal action. In this case, the State of New Jersey fined each business 10,000 dollars, and issued a Notice of Violation.

What should the Attorney General do?

One thing that should have been done however is the creation of a joint task force with the Attorney General’s office. As of right now, none of these businesses face criminal charges for their actions, which is not the correct course of action. These businesses broke multiple laws by scamming these people and they deserve to have legal action brought against them. It would seem that in this situation the State of New Jersey did take this seriously, but I question whether or not they took it seriously enough. Simply slapping a fine on the businesses and saying don’t do it again is not enough! The owners of these corporations and anyone who took part in any of the transactions in question deserve to have legal action brought against them in a court of law.

An example of Notarios work

Just last week I met a potential client, who came asking me why his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals wasn’t approved. He went to a notario. He was convinced she was an attorney. He paid her a significant amount of money. Filled out the documents, but after two years he hasn’t received a single document from the immigration. Now, this notario won’t return his phone calls, his documents, or help him in any way. He was scammed. She never filed the petition with immigration. He has been waiting for two years, for nothing. He is lucky. I know some clients whose notario filed the wrong papers and landed them in immigration custody and removal hearing (deportation). This is a good first step that New Jersey took, but they strongly have to consider criminal action. Every county has their share of notaries not just Passaic. It is about time that New Jersey starts protecting its immigrant community.

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