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April 6, 2017


Attorney General Alleges Joliet Woman Took Thousands of Dollars from Immigrants

Chicago — Attorney General Lisa Madigan today filed a lawsuit against a Joliet woman alleging she defrauded at least four Illinois residents out of more than $10,000 for unlicensed immigration counseling in violation of state consumer fraud and immigration services laws.

Madigan filed the lawsuit in Cook County against Norma Bonilla, alleging she operated a scam to get immigrants to pay her thousands of dollars to obtain immigration statuses for which they were not actually eligible. Madigan alleges Bonilla is not a licensed attorney or employed by an immigration attorney or any agency authorized to provide immigration assistance services. Also, she also has never registered with the Attorney General's office, as required by state law.

"This scam exploited immigrants at a time when many are seeking assistance due to the recent federal executive actions," Madigan said. "Preying on immigrants' fears and confusion is an appalling scheme, and this lawsuit seeks to stop this fraud."

Madigan's lawsuit alleges that Bonilla met with consumers at their homes to advise them on immigration matters, prepare and submit applications for immigration status and offer to obtain government records. The lawsuit states she charged consumers more than $1,000 to obtain immigration records that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) only charges $35, and she charged consumers an additional $1,000 for her efforts. Madigan further alleges Bonilla never provided people any of the documents for which they had overpaid and would never provide a refund.

Madigan also alleges Bonilla violated the law by never providing written contracts to explain her services or costs and failing to inform consumers of their right to cancel their contract within 72 hours or their right to have their documents returned.

Madigan warned those looking for immigration assistance that Bonilla may still be operating despite being unauthorized to do so.

"It is critical to find honest and legitimate assistance and know the warning signs of immigration fraud," Madigan said. "I encourage people to contact my office if you encounter a solicitation that seems questionable or if you have already been the victim of fraud. My office does not ask for immigration status."

In February, in the wake of the Executive Orders on immigration, Madigan issued an alert to warn immigrant communities to potential fraud, including scam artists and unscrupulous immigration services providers who illegally pose as lawyers or demand excessive upfront fees for assistance. Madigan also warned immigrants to be cautious of calls from people claiming to be a government or law enforcement official who demands payment and threatens deportation. USCIS will never ask for payment over the phone.

Illinois law requires immigration services providers to register with the Attorney General's Office, unless they are licensed attorneys or a nonprofit organization recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals. In addition to these regulatory requirements, immigration services providers must:

  • Provide consumers with a written contract in English and their native language;
  • Provide consumers with a three-day right to cancel the contract; and
  • Return all documents to the consumer upon the demand.

If immigrants have concerns about traveling to their country of origin, they should seek reputable and legitimate assistance, including contacting their local consulate office.

For more information regarding the Immigration Executive Order, your rights and what to do, visit the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the National Immigration Justice Center or the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

To file a complaint against an immigration services provider, visit Attorney General Madigan's website, contact her office at 1-800-386-5438 or call her Spanish hotline at 1-866-310-8398. To learn more about immigration services provider fraud, visit Madigan's website.

Assistant Attorneys General Cecilia Abundis and Jacob Gilbert are handling the lawsuit for Madigan's Consumer Fraud Bureau.


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