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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. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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