SF judge rules in favor of city to stop business from providing 'fraudulent immigration services'

For years, Leo Lacayo has allegedly falsely represented himself as an attorney, scamming those hoping to get legal aid in the U.S.

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Sunday, September 18, 2022
Judge rules in favor to stop SF's 'fraudulent immigration' business
A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the city to stop Lacayo & Associates from providing "fraudulent immigration services."

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the city to stop an immigration consulting business from providing fraudulent immigration services.

For years, San Francisco public notary Leo Lacayo has been the focus of investigations by the city attorney's office.

"In recent years, Leo Lacayo has been the biggest and worse offender we are aware of, who has defrauded hundreds of immigrant families of money," said David Chiu, City Attorney of San Francisco.

This week a judge granted the city's motion to stop Lacayo from providing what they categorized as "fraudulent immigration services," citing a violation to an order Lacayo received in 2017 prohibiting him from acting as an attorney.

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"It is a significant win although it's something that should have happened years ago," said Chiu and added, "He is not allowed to even make referrals or provide any advice."

Norberto Molina said he was a victim of Lacayo in 2016 when he paid him thousands of dollars hoping to get legal aid in the U.S.

"More than $6,000 and then he charged me another $500," said Molina.

Attorney Pilar Eslava with community-based legal organization, La Raza Centro Legal has been picking up the pieces of cases like Norberto's.

"He was lying to clients. He was presenting himself as an attorney. He was saying that he had many attorneys working at his office," said Eslava and added, "We've been trying to help in fixing up the mess for years."

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Eslava explains that in Latin America, a public notary is a lawyer with a specialty. Lacayo's clients say he hides behind that distinction.

"In the U.S., a notary could be anybody. You don't have to have a bachelor degree to be a notary in the United States, but these people don't know that. These people when they hear the word notary they think it's somebody that is a specialist in law," said Eslava.

According to court documents, Lacayo's fraudulent behavior is vast. His office has submitted over 400 applications to U.S. immigration authorities.

We went to Lacayo's office and were told he was out. On the phone, he said the allegations were "garbage" and sarcastically laughed about not showing up to court.

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Esalava hopes the city goes beyond a second motion.

"He really disregarded the court. Disregarded the community that he serves. So I'm not sure if he will ever be stopped," said Eslava.

Chiu said Lacayo could face larger consequences if he is caught providing legal immigration services after the latest motion.

"There are potential criminal consequences," said Chiu.

The new motion extends the 2017 injunction by five years.

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