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Document and Benefit Fraud
12/08/2016

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Owner of Los Angeles immigration advocacy business charged with defrauding migrant clients

LOS ANGELES – The owner of a Los Angeles-based business that purported to advocate on behalf of immigrants was arrested Wednesday on felony charges filed by the California Attorney General’s Office alleging he defrauded his migrant clients. 

Oswaldo Rafael Cabrera, 48, owner of Coalicion Latinoamericana Internacional (CLI), is accused of 22 criminal counts, including grand theft, attempted grand theft, attempted perjury, and conspiracy to engage in the unlawful practice of law. Charges have also been filed against his wife, Maria Marcelina Rodas, 54.

The charges are the product of a multiagency probe involving the California Attorney General’s Office; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); and the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fraud Detection and National Security also assisted with the investigation. 

The arrest warrant affidavit alleges Cabrera often posed as an attorney and provided legal consultations and services, charging up to $9,000. Despite lacking accreditation or a license to practice law, Cabrera posed as an immigration lawyer and expert with a proven record of helping immigrants on major media platforms in both mainstream and Spanish-language media. The defendant used his prominent profile to solicit customers, whom he then duped.

Cabrera repeatedly misled his victims about the status of their cases, misinformed them about their eligibility for immigration relief, and completed immigration forms improperly while continuing to collect victims’ money. Cabrera also ignored or lied to victims in an attempt to avoid giving refunds, sometimes for thousands of dollars, while denying any wrongdoing. In some instances, Cabrera’s handling of immigration cases had irreparable consequences, leading to the deportation of victims’ family members.

The arrest warrant affidavit also alleges Cabrera provided immigration consulting services without having completed the necessary registration with the California Secretary of State, and that he and his wife conspired to violate the Immigration Consultants Act.

“We must be vigilant against predators, including unscrupulous lawyers and immigration consultants, who take advantage of vulnerable undocumented immigrants, then often use scare tactics to prevent them from reporting these crimes,” said Attorney General Harris. “Mr. Cabrera’s deception cost dozens of immigrants their hard-earned savings and tore families apart. Scam artists who exploit immigrants trying to navigate a complex system must be held accountable.”

“This case should give pause to unscrupulous immigration practitioners who profit from offering false hope to people who are desperate to buy into the American dream,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “HSI will continue to work closely with its local and federal partners to ensure that those who prey on vulnerable members of the immigrant community are held accountable for their actions.”

The charges in this case are only allegations and all defendants must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

The Attorney General’s Office is working with non-profit organizations and legal clinics to ensure that victims defrauded by Cabrera receive legal assistance. Anyone who has received immigration assistance from Cabrera or CLI and believes they may be a victim of this fraudulent scheme is encouraged to contact the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs immediately by calling 323-881-7099.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 12/09/2016