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Panel to Pursue Rip-Off Artists in Amnesty Program

February 26, 1987|JOHN KENDALL | Times Staff Writer

A joint-agency task force promised Wednesday to vigorously pursue Los Angeles-area rip-off artists who may try to exploit hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens expected to seek amnesty under the new federal immigration law.

Members of the Immigration and Amnesty Task Force, composed of representatives of city, county, state and federal agencies, met for the first time in an organizing session, then discussed the group's anticipated role.

"We feel that there is a great need for this type of watchdog unit," City Atty. James K. Hahn told a press conference. "We are organizing now to protect those vulnerable people from rip-off artists out to exploit them." An estimated 400,000 to a million people in Los Angeles County are expected to begin registering for amnesty May 5, he said.

The task force, Hahn said, will take a "close, hard look" at individuals and firms in three areas: attorneys; immigration and nationality law specialists and notaries public, and INS-certified immigration consultants. He said officials will look for false and misleading advertising; illegal and exorbitant fees; improper splitting of attorney fees; practicing law without a license; grand theft, and unfair business practices.

California's estimated 140,000 notaries public are of particular interest, according to Hahn, because in Mexico a notario publico is a state official with qualifications far exceeding U.S. notaries.

"Consequently, there is a great potential for undocumented immigrants from Mexico to put more trust than they should in American notaries public--particularly those out to make a quick buck in return for unqualified advice and services that may even jeopardize legitimate amnesty applications," he said.

The task force will be composed of representatives of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the state attorney general's office, the U.S. attorney, the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs, the Los Angeles Police Department and the state and county Bar associations. It will be coordinated by Deputy City Atty. Sue Frauens, head of the city attorney's Consumer Protection Unit.

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