Owner of Los Angeles immigration advocacy business sentenced to more than 5 years in prison for immigration fraud
LOS ANGELES – The owner and operator of a Los Angeles-based business known as the Coalición Latinoamericana Internacional (CLI) was sentenced Wednesday to five years and two months in state prison after pleading guilty to felony charges involving grand theft, attempted perjury, and conspiracy to violate the Immigration Consultants Act.
Oswaldo Rafael Cabrera, 48, was originally accused in December 2016 of 22 criminal counts, including grand theft, attempted grand theft, attempted perjury, and conspiracy to engage in the unlawful practice of law. His wife, Maria Marcelina Rodas, 54, who was also convicted in the case, was sentenced to three years’ felony probation for conspiring to violate the Immigration Consultants Act.
After filing the initial criminal complaint, additional victims came forward, and on Feb. 14 the Attorney General’s Office filed an amended complaint alleging 36 felony counts and two sentencing enhancements.
“Taking advantage of the most vulnerable is reprehensible,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “Today’s sentencing puts on notice others who may want to carry out these crimes, and lets hardworking immigrant families know that our office has got their backs.”
The charges resulted from a multiagency probe involving the California Attorney General’s Office; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); and the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fraud Detection and National Security also assisted with the investigation.
“This case should give pause to unscrupulous immigration practitioners who profit from offering false hope to people who are desperate to buy into the American dream,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “HSI will continue to work closely with its local and federal partners to ensure that those who prey on vulnerable members of the immigrant community are held accountable for their actions.”
The probe revealed Cabrera often held himself out as an attorney and provided legal consultations and services, charging up to $9,000. Despite lacking accreditation or a license to practice law, Cabrera posed as an immigration lawyer and expert with a proven record of helping immigrants on major media platforms in both mainstream and Spanish-language media. The defendant used his prominent profile to solicit customers, whom he then duped.
Cabrera repeatedly misled his victims about the status of their cases, misinformed them about their eligibility for immigration relief, and completed immigration forms improperly while continuing to collect victims’ money. Cabrera also ignored or lied to victims in an attempt to avoid giving refunds, sometimes for thousands of dollars, while denying any wrongdoing. In some instances, Cabrera’s handling of immigration cases had irreparable consequences, leading to the deportation of victims’ family members.