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Statewide sweep nets 28 New Jersey businesses accused of defrauding immigrants

The state Division of Consumer Affairs has cited 28 New Jersey businesses for allegedly defrauding customers by charging for immigration services that they are not legally permitted to provide, authorities said Friday.

Notaries public, tax preparers, travel agencies and other businesses as far north as Paterson and as far south as Lakewood received notices of violation accusing them of charging for services that can be performed only by an attorney or by representatives accredited by the federal government.

Some of the businesses were accused of charging more than $1,500 for services they weren’t authorized to perform, the state alleged.

This operation is part of the state’s effort to curb so-called “notario” fraud, a practice in which a notary public takes advantage of Spanish-speaking customers who believe they are consulting with an attorney or immigration expert. The term comes from certain Latin American countries where “notarios” are attorneys or have legal training to prepare documents for their clients and offer legal advice.

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