'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. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  2. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  3. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  4. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  5. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well