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Wednesday, July 07, 2004

HoustonChronicle.com - Notary public fined $200,000 in immigration scam

HoustonChronicle.com - Notary public fined $200,000 in immigration scam
July 7, 2004, 6:41AM

Notary public fined $200,000 in immigration scam
Associated Press


BROWNSVILLE -- A notary public who posed as an immigration attorney to unknowing migrants has been fined $200,000 and put out of business, state officials said today.

Martha Uresti, 53, is the first to be penalized under a state law aimed at notary publics exploiting the similarity of their title to "notario publico," which in Latin America is a title given to experienced lawyers.

State District Judge Leonel Alejandro's judgment last week was in response to a civil lawsuit filed by Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Abbott showed Uresti, who operated Brownsville-based Uresti Immigration/Notary Services, sometimes charged more than $3,000 to help clients get work permits and permanent residency, but did not hold the necessary attorney's license to perform such services and often did nothing to move the case forward.

"This is another victory in our mission to rid Texas of unscrupulous individuals and businesses who attempt to amass fortunes on the backs of hardworking immigrants," Abbott said Tuesday.

Uresti has pleaded innocent to the scam in a separate, criminal case filed by the Cameron County District Attorney. She is free on bond pending an Aug. 12 court appearance. She faces up to six months in jail if convicted.

A law enacted in 2001 by the Texas Legislature specifies that a notary public can be held criminally responsible for providing immigration services without the proper license.

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