Monday, September 9, 2013

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Attorney General’s Office Shuts Down Unauthorized Austin-Based Immigration Consultant

AUSTIN – The Texas Attorney General’s Office secured an agreed final judgment and permanent injunction against Austin-based nonprofit Cristo Vive for providing unauthorized legal services in the Travis County area.

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Jorge Sanchez Gutierrez
(Photo from deposition to the State)

Maria Eugenia Rodarte
(Photo from deposition to State)

Leslie Bernard "Bernie" Boudreaux Jr.
(Photo from deposition to State)

Cristo Vive, Christian Social Services, Inc.
Agreed Final Judgment against Cristo Vive, et al.

In August 2012, the State filed an enforcement action against the defendants for violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Notary Public Act by unlawfully representing they were legally authorized to process immigration cases before federal authorities. The 53rd Judicial District Court in Travis County ordered the defendants to dissolve Cristo Vive and pay restitution to affected Cristo Vive clients. During the discovery process, state investigators discovered that the defendants were neither licensed attorneys nor accredited to offer immigration-related legal services.

Under federal law, only licensed attorneys and organizations accredited by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Board of Immigration Appeals may offer immigration consulting services. Texas law authorizes notaries public to witness the signing of legal documents – but specifically forbids them from providing immigration services unless they hold a separate license to practice law.

The final judgment signed and filed on Aug. 30 permanently shuts down Cristo Vive and prohibits its director, Jorge Sanchez; its treasurer, Maria Eugenia Rodarte Sanchez; and its president, Leslie Bernard “Bernie” Boudreaux Jr. from advertising, performing or accepting money for immigration consulting services.

Further, the defendants were assessed $300,000 in civil penalties and up to $250,000 in restitution to affected clients. The Office of the Attorney General will notify affected Cristo Vive customers with instructions on how to submit claims for restitution through an independent administrator.

The permanent injunction issued against the defendants imposes additional restrictions, including:
•Prohibiting the defendants from soliciting, advertising or providing immigration services;
•Prohibiting any of the individual defendants from acting as a volunteer that handles money for any nonprofit charitable organization; and
•Requiring defendant Sanchez to surrender his notary commission and stamp back to the Texas Secretary of State.