For the last few months, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s office has been pursuing an action agains Lacayo & Associates, a Bernal Heights company that provides tax and immigration consulting from it’s office at 3330 Mission Street (near Virginia), a few doors south of the Safeway.
The City accuses Lacayo & Associates of fraud, alleging that the company has misrepresented itself as a law firm. Yesterday, the City Attorney’s Office announced it has obtained an injunction against Lacayo & Associates:
SAN FRANCISCO (Oct. 11, 2016) — A San Francisco Superior Court judge this morning granted City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s motion for a preliminary injunction ordering defendants Lacayo & Associates and its principles, Leonard Lacayo and Ada Lacayo, to immediately comply with the Immigration Consultant Act and stop unlawfully providing legal services.
In issuing the preliminary injunction, Judge Harold Kahn found that Herrera is likely to prevail on the causes of action in his suit filed in August against the defendants for misleading clients to falsely believe Mr. Lacayo was an attorney who could provide legal services in their immigration cases.
“I am grateful that the court recognized the urgency of Lacayo & Associate’s actions and ordered an immediate halt to their fraudulent operation,” said Herrera. “They preyed on the immigrant community by charging high fees for work they could not perform, even placing some of their clients at risk of deportation. Today’s court order is an important step towards bringing the Lacayos to justice and preventing other immigrants from becoming victims of their incompetent and illegal services.”
As part of the preliminary injunction, Lacayo & Associates must remove from their advertising any misleading statements about the “legal services” they provide, and give written notice to clients who received immigration related services within the past four years of the clients’ rights under California law and the fact that Leonard Lacayo is not a licensed attorney. Mr. Lacayo is also prohibited from providing any immigration-related services unless he registers with the CA secretary of state as an immigration consultant, passes a criminal background check, files a disclosure form, and posts a surety bond in the amount of $100,000.
Lacayo & Associates has been operating in San Francisco since 1986. Mr. Lacayo is a notary public but is not licensed to practice law nor registered with the state as an immigration consultant. Yet, he routinely defrauds clients by falsely representing himself as a lawyer and shoddily performing immigration-related services. Victims report that after charging thousands of dollars in fees, Mr. Lacayo would fail to ever submit their applications, or would submit applications that were denied due to inadequate preparation. In many cases it was only when clients sought assistance elsewhere that they realized that Mr. Lacayo was not an attorney and learned the true status of their cases.
If successful, the case could result in civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation and recover funds for consumers who were victimized by Lacayo & Associates’ unlawful, fraudulent, and unfair practices.
Services for victims
Victims of Lacayo & Associates who are looking for a licensed attorney to take over their case should contact the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service hotline at (415) 989-1616 and ask to speak with Antonio Hernandez.
Victims who would like to make a complaint about Leonard or Ada Lacayo or Lacayo & Associates or wish to assist the San Francisco City Attorney Office in prosecuting this legal action can contact the office’s hotline at (415) 355-3270.
The case is: People of the State of California v. Leonard Lacayo et al,San Francisco Superior Court Case No. CGC 15-553699, filed August 15, 2016. Complete documentation on the case is available online.
IMAGE: Lacayo Associates office at 3300 Mission Street, via Google Street View