Tricked dozens of Russians: in California, a woman posing as an immigration lawyer
The California Bar Association revealed the unauthorized legal practice of a woman from San Francisco, whose victims were mostly immigrants from Russia and Mongolia. She claimed that she could help them with immigration issues. Writes about it Calbar.
Nelly Allen, also known as Nelly Gabutti, Nelly Gabueva and Ellen Allen, engaged in fraud under various names, including on behalf of the Foreigners Assistance Association, International Law Group, ILGSF, ILGSF Resources and LDA Office Nelly Allen LLM.
She made clients believe she was an immigration attorney. Two of Allen's former clients say they now face a substantial risk of deportation due to the false and incorrect information provided by Allen in their asylum applications. Allen was never admitted to the California Bar.
The state bar association has a unit that investigates and eliminates unauthorized legal practice, including those who provide legal advice without a license or otherwise act as a lawyer.
On April 29, 2020, the state bar in the San Francisco County Supreme Court pleaded for a court order for Allen’s illegal law firm. The state bar inspected Allen’s illegal activities and seized approximately 70 client files. The agency also turned off Allen's business-related phone numbers, redirecting subscribers to the state bar, froze a bank account and redirecting mail to the state bar. After the court granted the request of the state board, Allen asked the court to reconsider her decision. The court has not yet ruled at the request of Allen.
The State Bar Association seeks to return the client files to their owners and has set a special phone number for Allen's former clients who want to return their documents: 213-765-1678.
Allen opposed the request of the Bar, denying that she was engaged in unauthorized legal practice. However, state attorneys provided documentary evidence that clients paid Allen thousands of dollars for illegal immigration legal services, and the court ruled that Allen was engaged in unauthorized legal practice.
People who are victims of immigration scammers can file a legal complaint with the state bar. There is no need to pay to file a complaint, and you do not have to be a US citizen. The bar will not ask applicants for citizenship or immigration status. The online complaint form is available in English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese.
In 2019, the state college of lawyers opened more than 900 cases for fraudsters, which is 24% more than in 2018. The state bar is also considering immigration complaints against lawyers and received more than 400 such complaints in 2019.
The state bar recommends avoiding fraud by lawyers and scammers by accepting the following меры предосторожности:
- Ask for the full name of the lawyer and state bar number. Before hiring a lawyer or paying any amount of money, find a lawyer on the state bar website or on the state website where they are allegedly licensed to find out if their license is valid. Consumers can also call the state bar at 800-843-9053.
- If the lawyer represents you in immigration matters, make sure they have a license for this type of practice. Lists of lawyers who currently do not have a license or have been disciplined by the office can be found at link.
- Sign a contract in writing, and also require a receipt of payments made by you.
- Be careful if someone requires cash payments. If you have to pay in cash, be sure to get a written receipt.
- Do not hire anyone who threatens to report your immigration status unless you pay them.
- If you do not have a bank account, use checks and insist on a written receipt. If you have already paid, you have the right to request a description and the amount of services provided.
Additional resources for consumers:
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