Friday, September 26, 2003

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Attorney General Abbott Halts Widespread International Driver's License Scams

DALLAS - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today announced that he has shut down two Texas companies that sold fraudulent international driver's licenses to predominately Spanish-speaking consumers.

Thousands of victims throughout the Dallas area, Houston and Central Texas were deceived into paying hundreds of dollars each for bogus international licenses. The businesses misrepresented that the licenses were legitimate and would allow consumers to drive legally.

"These licenses are not worth the paper they are printed on," said Attorney General Abbott. "Contrary to claims the defendants made, these bogus documents are not recognized by any law enforcement authority."

Since taking office, Attorney General Abbott has made it a priority to crack down on those who prey on Texas consumers. "Those who make it their business to take advantage of the people of Texas have no business in our state," Abbott said at a news conference. The action against illegal international driver's license operations follows Abbott's crackdown against notarios, individuals who misrepresent themselves as attorneys to take advantage of Spanish-speaking consumers.

"Increasingly, we are seeing con artists whose preference is to defraud thousands of immigrants who call Texas home," Abbott said. "As a result, we are moving aggressively to turn the tide against those who exploit language barriers and cultural differences to separate Texas consumers from their hard-earned money."

On Friday, Attorney General Abbott announced settlement of two lawsuits his office filed that will permanently shut down and penalize companies operating international driver's license frauds, while allowing consumers to apply for restitution. The licenses sold for $200 each, or more.

One of the lawsuits was filed against Austin-based International Professional All Services (IPAS) and its principal, Maria Castano. The company has agreed to pay fines, legal fees and restitution to consumers affected by its scheme.

A separate legal action was filed against International Automobile Drivers, which operated retail outlets in Dallas and Houston. A court order now obligates the company to pay a total of half a million dollars in fines, fees, and restitution for consumers.

Attorney General Abbott said the companies advertised heavily in Spanish-language media, using deceptive promotions misrepresenting to consumers that the licenses were valid. However, legitimate international licenses may only be obtained in the country that issued the bearer's original license and only from government-authorized entities. Neither defendant had permission from U.S. authorities to issue the licenses.

Victims of International Automobile Drivers and IPAS should immediately contact the Office of the Attorney General at 1-800-252-8011 to apply for restitution.


Related filings:
Agreed Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction [State v. IAD] PDF)
Plaintiff's Original Verified Petition (PDF)
Agreed Temporary Injunction (PDF)
Agreed Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction [State v. IPAS] (PDF)
Plaintiff's First Amended Original Petition (PDF)