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'Notario' pleads guilty to tax evasion, illegal law practice

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A Marion Superior judge has sentenced an Indianapolis woman who offered illegal immigration services without a law license and evaded paying her income taxes through that business.

The Indiana attorney general’s office filed a criminal tax evasion 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. The non-attorney advertised herself to the Spanish-speaking community as a “notario” who can assist with immigration legal issues despite not having a law license, but that creates confusion with what’s known as a “notario publico” designation given to attorneys with specialized training.

That criminal tax-related legal maneuver is known as the “Al Capone approach,” because it was what brought down the infamous organized crime boss. That is separate from the civil action the AG filed in March against Barber for the unauthorized practice of law under the Deceptive Consumer Practices Act. The cases share the fact that Barber advertised herself to the Spanish-speaking community as someone who can assist with immigration issues and since 2006 she had allegedly done similar selection, preparation, and completion of U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services immigration forms for a fee. The suit against her mirrored one against another non-lawyer in Fort Wayne, which remains pending in Allen County.

On Monday, Barber pleaded guilty to criminal charges for her actions as a “notario” and received a one-year probation sentence for two Class D felony counts of income tax evasion and the Class B misdemeanor of the unauthorized practicing of law. She must perform 40 hours of community service, and she agrees she will no longer do any sort of immigration work, according to AG spokesman Bryan Corbin.

Corbin said Barber made a full allocution in open court that her actions were wrong and harmed people and weren’t just a mere technical violation of the law. If she stays out of trouble for six months, Barber can seek to have her felony record converted to misdemeanors.

After the sentencing, the AG’s office served Barber with a civil tax assessment notice stating that she owes the Indiana Department of Revenue $58,194.

A statement from the AG says, “The Consumer Protection Division’s message to the public is: Don't be misled. A ‘notario’ cannot give you legal advice on immigration or file your legal documents. Only a licensed attorney can do that.”

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  1. I'm not sure what's more depressing: the fact that people would pay $35,000 per year to attend an unaccredited law school, or the fact that the same people "are hanging in there and willing to follow the dean’s lead in going forward" after the same school fails to gain accreditation, rendering their $70,000 and counting education worthless. Maybe it's a good thing these people can't sit for the bar.

  2. Such is not uncommon on law school startups. Students and faculty should tap Bruce Green, city attorney of Lufkin, Texas. He led a group of studnets and faculty and sued the ABA as a law student. He knows the ropes, has advised other law school startups. Very astute and principled attorney of unpopular clients, at least in his past, before Lufkin tapped him to run their show.

  3. Not that having the appellate records on Odyssey won't be welcome or useful, but I would rather they first bring in the stray counties that aren't yet connected on the trial court level.

  4. Aristotle said 350 bc: "The most hated sort, and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself, and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest. And this term interest, which means the birth of money from money, is applied to the breeding of money because the offspring resembles the parent. Wherefore of an modes of getting wealth this is the most unnatural.

  5. Oh yes, lifetime tenure. The Founders gave that to the federal judges .... at that time no federal district courts existed .... so we are talking the Supreme Court justices only in context ....so that they could rule against traditional marriage and for the other pet projects of the sixties generation. Right. Hmmmm, but I must admit, there is something from that time frame that seems to recommend itself in this context ..... on yes, from a document the Founders penned in 1776: " He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good."

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