A Los Angeles woman and her daughter accused of posing as lawyers and leading immigrants to believe they had special sway when it came to immigration cases said she and her mother are innocent, despite being charged in connection with the illegal consulting business.
Judith Gil, 65, and her daughter Minerva Gil, 36, entered pleas of no contest after they were accused of scamming immigrants by leading their clients to believe she could guarantee good outcomes. She even allegedly advised clients to lie to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the LA City Attorney said.
Judith Gil pleaded no contest May 1 to grand theft, practicing without a license, and other charges after charging clients thousands of dollars while offering unqualified legal advice. She was placed on 36 months of summary probation, and ordered to serve two months in a county jail or serve a sentence on house arrest and perform 45 days of community service. In addition, she must pay three or her victims $13,355 back, the City Attorney said.
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Her daughter Minerva pleaded no contest to acting as an immigration consultant. She was also ordered to serve 30 days in jail or do 20 days of community service, and pay restitution to a victim in the amount of $3,855, the City Attorney said.
Both were ordered to never act as immigration lawyers again, unless properly licensed.
In February of 2019, the State Bar of California seized the unauthorized practice, collecting 1,000 case files from clients including personal documents like green cards, work permits, and social security cards.
Gil's inaction in one case led to a deportation order, the City Attorney said. In another case she was handling, her client had to return to Guatemala to live with her husband after he was deported.
Other clients also say Gil took their cases and abandoned them, forcing them to spend even more money hiring a new lawyer to now contend with the damage that Gil had done, the Los Angeles City Attorney said.
Minerva said her mother was in the hospital Thursday, after the LA City Attorney announced their convictions.
In an interview with NBCLA, she said she and her mother are innocent, and never claimed they were attorneys when taking on cases.
"She put everything to that job to help the people and this happened. Why? She never stole from nobody," Minerva said.
Anyone who believes valid work permits, green cards and social security cards collected from Gil's office belong to him or her should contact the State Bar at 213-765-1644.
If you believe you have been targeted by an unlicensed attorney, you can file a complaint with the State Bar here. It's free, you do not have to be a U.S. citizen, and the State Bar will not inquire about your immigration status.
The LA City Attorney also has advice on what to do when hiring an attorney to avoid being scammed:
- Get the attorney's full name and State Bar number, and before payment, search their information on the State Bar website here. If the lawyer says he is licensed in another state, search the State Bar in that state to ensure he or she is licensed and active. You can also call the State Bar at 800-843-9053.
- Get a contract in writing, and receipts for every payment, including cash payments.
- Beware if the attorney requires cash payments - this is a red flag.
- Beware if the attorney ever threatens to report you to immigration without immediate payment.
- Make sure everything is written down. If you don't have a bank account, use a cashier's check, and make sure you get a written receipt.
- You are entitled to a record of your bills if you've already made payments as well.