City Moves to Halt Bernal Heights Firm Accused of Defrauding Immigrants


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

Sunday: Grand Opening Party for New 12 Small Things Store on Cortland


A new business is moving into the former Gifts on the Hill space at 513 Cortland. This Sunday, October 9, Bernal Neighbor Laurie Kanes will hold a grand opening celebration for 12 Small Things, her new store and showroom for artisanal crafts from around the world. Neighbor Laurie tells Bernalwood:

I’m the new tenant for the former thrift shop space at 513 Cortland that is next to the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center.

My husband and I moved to the neighborhood in 1989, and we’ve raised our two daughters here. After 30 years working in-house for corporate retailer’s creative departments, I started to showcase handmade products from artisans in need of support around the world.

Working out of my home, I expanded the business to include wholesale representation for these groups at gift trade shows for retailers. I was outgrowing my living room office and also needed a showroom when the BHNC space became available. They were looking for a small business they felt would work well in the neighborhood and had some non-profit or social responsibility connections.

I feel very grateful to be in this new space and part of the Cortland corridor, where I will be selling my products in the showroom/store. As a member of the community and the Bernal Business Alliance, I already have a strong connection to the neighborhood, but getting a chance to say hi to everyone while I’ve been renovating the place has been very welcoming and encouraging.

I am having an opening party this Sunday, October 9th, from 3:00 – 6:00 at 513 Cortland with music and light refreshments and would like to invite you and your readers to stop by and say hi.

Can’t promise that everything will be up and running smoothly right away, but hopefully I’ll have some time here to figure out the details along the way.

Many thanks!


Fire-Damaged Cole Hardware and Playa Azul Demolished


It wasn’t with a bang, but with a whimper.

Yesterday, the Mission Street buildings that once housed Cole Hardware and Playa Azul — structures that were hollowed-out by the devastating fire last June — were finally demolished.

Neighbor Valerie took the blue-sky photo above later in the day, when work was wrapping up. Yet earlier in the morning, Neighbor William shared these photos taken just as the demolition was getting underway:

colehardwaredemo3It’s a sad (if inevitable) spectacle, and the void that’s left behind is a glaring symbol of the sadness many Bernalese feel at the loss of two esteemed neighborhood institutions.

PHOTOS: Top, Neighbor Valerie. Below, Neighbor William

Federal Loans Offered for Merchants Recovering from Mission Street Fire


There’s some encouraging news for merchants working to rebuild their businesses after last June’s devastating Cole Hardware fire — and the customers who  miss them.

In addition to the $10,000 grant each business has already received from the City, the federal government’s Small Business Administration is also offering low-interest disaster-relief loans to help shuttered businesses reopen.

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez from the San Francisco Examiner reports:

The U.S. Small Business Administration on Wednesday declared the five-alarm fire June 28 at Mission and 29th streets, which displaced at least seven businesses and 40 residents and families, a “disaster” in response to a request from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

The declaration, also urged by the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, is a special status allowing the Small Business Administration to make federal assistance available.

That assistance comes in the form of disaster loans, allowing the businesses affected by the blaze up to $2 million to replace or repair damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery, equipment or other business assets.

The Mayor’s Office is coordinating with Keane’s 3300 Club, El Gran Taco Loco, Playa Azul Seafood, Coronitas, the Front Porch, and Harvest Shop to access available funds.

The families and individuals displaced from a nearby apartment building and the Graywood Hotel, a single-room occupancy hotel, will be able to take out $40,000 loans for damaged or destroyed personal property.

Though these are loans and not grants, “certainly any additional capital they have access to will give them ability to get going again sooner,” said Bijan Karimi, assistant deputy director of the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management.

PHOTO: Former site of Cole Hardware, July 16, 2016, photographed by Neighbor Valerie

Saturday: Benefit Sale at Secession for Fire-Damaged Mission Street Merchants


This Saturday, July 30, your glamorous Neighbor Eden Stein from Secession Art & Design on Mission Street is hosting a benefit party for merchants impacted by last month’s devastating Cole Hardware Fire.

Neighbor Eden says:

Please join us on Saturday, July 30th, 4-8pm for a neighbor and merchant mixer/fundraiser/Cole Hardware pickup party at Secession Art & Design, 3235 Mission Street.

The 3300 Club will be here selling their limited edition t-shirts, Cole Hardware will be pouring their Cutting Edge wine, Fire Pie has donated pizza and lots of neighbors will be stopping by to show some community love & support. Thanks to everyone who ordered online from Cole Hardware to pick up at the party!

The Mission Bernal Merchant Association and Bernal Business Alliance are excited to host the party and come together to raise funds for the June 18th Fire Merchant Relief Fundraiser. You can donate to the fund in person, or online. Thank you, however you choose to support.

We look forward to seeing you at the party!

PHOTO: 3300 block of Mission Street after the fire. Photo by Jonathan Koshi via MBMASF

Tuesday: Celebrate 17 Years of Heartfelt with Neighbor Darcy


Some things change, some things stay the same, and some things stay the same because they change a lot. The fabulous Heartfelt store on Cortland has been able to stick around for a long time because its proprietor, Neighbor Darcy Lee, is obsessively focused on making sure her “contemporary five-and-dime” store always feels fresh and new.

This week, Neighbor Darcy is celebrating 17 years of Hearffelt, with an in-store party on Tuesday, July 26:

I recently looked up to see when I bought the store, and discovered it was 1999. I was a retail newbie at that time, and I jumped in with both feet.

We would like to thank the neighborhood that made 17 years possible on Tuesday, July 26th from 6-8 pm. We hope to party like its 1999, and thus are asking folks to wear purple in honor of my favorite rock star of all time. First 50 folks that wear purple get a door prize.

We’l have cookies champagne, and Mariachi Jalisco will be playing!

Congratulations, Darcy!


PHOTO: Darcy Lee during a rainstorm, 2015, by Telstar Logistics. Poster, artwork by Reuben Rude

Thieves Smash Healthy Spirits Door to Steal Cash Register


Grrrrrrrr. Rami from Healthy Spirits tells Bernalwood:

Healthy Spirits located at 249 Cortland Ave  was broken into at 5:30 AM this morning. Two robbers broke the glass on the front door and entered the shop. They stole the cash register with the small sum of money and proceeded to exit. Thankfully the damage was only financial and no one was hurt in anyway.

PHOTO: Smashed door, via Healthy Spirits