AG charges two locals for allegedly defrauding immigrants

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Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed criminal charges against Edwin Cruz-Perez and Maurice Terry for reportedly violating previous orders to stop providing unqualified immigration services to Washington consumers.

Immigration services fraud is illegal under Washington state’s Immigration Services Fraud Prevention Act (ISFPA). The law protects consumers from unauthorized entities that peddle assistance completing immigration forms and navigating immigration processes that legally can only be provided by qualified attorneys and representatives authorized under federal law.

After an Attorney General investigation in 2011, Cruz and Terry entered into a consent decree in which they agreed to stop providing unqualified assistance to Washingtonians in immigration matters. A judge found that they violated the decree in 2015 and barred the two from providing immigration services in any capacity. Despite that court order, AGO investigators found that Cruz and Terry continued to provide immigration services without being qualified to do so from July 2016 through June 2017.

Ferguson filed criminal charges in Pierce County District Courtalleging that Cruz and Terry committed one count of contempt. In addition, Cruz has been charged with three counts of prohibited practices, while Terry has been charged with one count. Each count is a gross misdemeanor. If convicted, the two could face up to 364 days in jail and fines up to $5,000 per count.

The charges are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

“Providing false or inaccurate information can ruin lives and force families apart,” said Ferguson. “Cracking down on those who defraud immigrants is a focus of my office.”

Cruz and Terry presented themselves as “immigration consultants” with their companies, EC New Horizons and EC Horizons. Neither are, nor ever have been, attorneys in Washington or accredited to assist Washingtonians in immigration matters.

The Attorney General’s Office began investigating EC Horizons and EC New Horizons in 2011. Over a three-year period, the two had entered into 480 separate agreements to provide legal advice and prepare documents in immigration matters. The two entered into a consent decree with the Attorney General’s Office in 2011, which barred them from providing a wide range of immigration services and imposed $8,000 in penalties and fees.

A private lawsuit against Cruz and Terry in 2014 revealed that they had not stopped providing immigration services to Washington consumers, in violation of the 2011 consent decree with the Attorney General’s Office.

As a result of violating the consent decree, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Vicki Hogan permanently barred them from providing any immigration assistance, even if working for another company. The judge also required Cruz and Terry to pay $356,449 in civil penalties, restitution and attorney’s costs and fees. To this day, they have not made any payments.

After that judgment, Cruz and Terry continued to provide immigration services to Washingtonians, in violation of Washington state law and the consent decree.

The Attorney General’s investigators interviewed several Washington residents who state that they received services from Cruz and/or Terry in 2016 and 2017. All of them stated that the two helped them apply for immigration visas, residency or citizenship.

Investigators also reviewed the email account Terry used for communicating with customers. His account contained dozens of emails to clients that Terry worked with after the judgment in 2016 barring him and Cruz from assisting in immigration matters. The emails revealed other instances where Terry responded to federal agencies, including the National Visa Center, as he prepared immigration documents for clients.

If anyone believes they have been a victim of immigration services fraud, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office online at atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.

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