Los Angeles

City Attorney Takes Stand Against People Preying on Immigrants

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer Tuesday announced the filing of criminal cases against four people, including an Orange County man who allegedly threatened to have a Latino day laborer arrested and deported after he filed a state claim seeking to be paid for his work and three Los Angeles residents who are accused of illegally acting as immigration consultants.

"Let me be very clear -- we will not tolerate anyone attempting to take advantage of the perceived vulnerabilities of residents because of their immigration status,'' Feuer said, noting that unlawful immigration consultants can "jeopardize the legal status of people who are desperately trying and often entitled to be here.''

Those charged in misdemeanor cases are:

-- James Balsamo, 53, of Westminster, who is charged with witness intimidation and sending harassing electronic communications to a Latino day laborer who filed a claim with the state Department of Industrial Relations for six days of work in 2017 that resulted in more than $4,900 in back wages and penalties being ordered.

"As the defendant in this case, Mr. Balsamo, learned of his worker's claims, he allegedly sent multiple threatening texts to the victim's cellphone, which included an offensive racial remark. In addition, he allegedly threatened to have this worker arrested and deported, and, to punctuate that threat, he allegedly sent the victim the following text, 'Trump is coming to town,''' Feuer said.

Balsamo -- who was doing business at the time as Tru Way Construction -- has pleaded not guilty, according to the City Attorney's Office.

-- Judith Gil, 65, and her daughter, Minerva Gil, 36, who are accused of operating an illegal immigration consulting business that allegedly preyed upon individuals seeking residency and other forms of legal status in the United States, the city attorney said. They are set to be arraigned Feb. 13 in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.


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The two offered "misinformation, false information and allegedly unqualified legal advice,'' Feuer said.

-- Eddie Rivas Bonilla, 54, who is charged with improperly acting as an immigration consultant and with the unauthorized practice of law.

Bonilla -- who is set to be arraigned Feb. 13 -- was convicted in a similar case in 2017, according to the City Attorney's Office.

"There are thousands upon thousands of people living in our community today in great fear, and fear leads people to make desperate decisions,'' Feuer said. "Some times those desperate decisions turn out very badly because they turn to people who are not qualified to provide help to them, who will take their money and leave them both without the funds that they desperately need to live on but also leave them with their own status here further jeopardized because of that interaction. So we are here to intervene.''

The city attorney urged those who believe they were victimized by similar crimes to contact his office.

"We will listen to you. We will stand up for you,'' Feuer said.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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