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AG files criminal UPL, tax evasion charges against ‘notario publico’

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Adding to what it has already done in targeting two “notario publicos” for illegally offering immigration services, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office has now filed a criminal Unauthorized Practice of Law charge and several tax evasion counts against one of those non-lawyers who was operating in Indianapolis.

The state attorney’s office announced the new criminal charges Thursday in the case against M. Esther Barber, also known as Maria Esther Tapia Cuevas, who was doing business as Asociacion Civica Mexicana De Indiana Inc. on Shelby Street in Indianapolis.

A civil action had been filed against her March 9 on allegations that she offered immigration-related services without being licensed or trained to do so, but criminal charges hadn’t immediately been attached to that. A search warrant of her business led to records being seized, and gave way to what’s materialized this week.

The civil suit alleges Barber advertised herself to the Spanish-speaking community as someone who can assist with immigration issues and since 2006 she’d allegedly done similar selection, preparation, and completion of immigration forms for a fee. The suit against her, similar to one filed against another non-lawyer in Fort Wayne, accused Barber of knowingly violating the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act by providing services without the required license and training.

As a result, she’s being charged now with a Class B misdemeanor for engaging in UPL – a count the state AG’s Office obtained permission from the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office to file. The count stems from Barber’s charging a client $1,200 to obtain legalization paperwork so that an immigrant could enter the country – something that a 2005 ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court specifically held could only be provided by a licensed attorney, not a notary public.

Since the AG’s office didn’t have any tax evasion counts relating to the Allen County notario case, any misdemeanor count of UPL there would have to stand on its own and that would be up to the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office to file rather than the state attorney’s office.

The UPL charge came on the same day the AG used the office’s limited criminal jurisdiction to charge Barber with 10 counts of state income tax evasion. A probable cause affidavit shows Barber advertised her business services in Spanish-language newspapers and over time received at least $56,768 for tasks such as preparing immigration forms, business formation, and liquor licensing applications, but she filed no state income tax returns between 2005 and 2009.

That tax-related legal maneuver is known as the “Al Capone approach,” as it brought down the infamous organized crime boss. The AG has used this approach three other times since late 2008 – on two commercial dog breeding operations and another cash-and-carry stereo business. Those three cases ended with guilty pleas and felony tax evasion convictions.

Barber appeared in court Thursday for an initial hearing, and the court set a $5,000 surety bond and required her to surrender her passport before being released. A pretrial conference is set for May 9 with a jury trial tentatively scheduled for Aug. 2. She faces up to six months in jail on the UPL misdemeanor charge and for each of the felonies, could see a sentence up to three years and fines up to $10,000.

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  1. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  2. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  3. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  4. I totally agree with John Smith.

  5. An idea that would harm the public good which is protected by licensing. Might as well abolish doctor and health care professions licensing too. Ridiculous. Unrealistic. Would open the floodgates of mischief and abuse. Even veteranarians are licensed. How has deregulation served the public good in banking, for example? Enough ideology already!

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