SAN FRANCISCO – A San Francisco immigration consulting business that had been previously ordered to shut down after claims of defrauding clients is facing a new crackdown by the city attorney’s office.
City Attorney David Chiu filed an injunction on Monday against Leonard Lacayo and his business, Lacayo & Associates, from providing services for the next five years.
According to Chiu’s office, Lacayo is accused of falsely representing himself as a lawyer and his business is accused of scamming immigrants into paying for “sham” legal services. Lacayo, a notary public, has never been licensed to practice law nor has he registered with the state as an immigration consultant.
“Leo Lacayo has demonstrated he has zero regard for the law or the immigrant communities he purports to serve,” Chiu said in a statement posted Thursday. “For years, he has profited off of vulnerable immigrants, taking their money while putting them at risk.”
Lacayo & Associates has faced sanctions from the city attorney’s office before. In 2017, the business reached a $400,000 settlement and was ordered to shut down immigration services over claims of fraud.
Former City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in 2017 that the Lacayos’ not only defrauded victims but also jeopardized their immigration cases.
“These victims thought they were doing what the law requires. Instead, the Lacayos’ incompetent or nonexistent work squandered legitimate opportunities for these victims to obtain legal residency,” Herrera said at the time. “It is appalling the level of risk the Lacayos placed clients in by charging excessive fees for work they could not perform.”
Chiu, who succeeded Herrera last year, said the business has continued to victimize the immigrant community. Following the injunction, at least 400 immigration applications and petitions associated with Lacayo & Associates have been sent to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), some in the weeks immediately following the 2017 court action.
“Despite being barred from providing immigration services, Lacayo has conveniently pretended that our injunction against him doesn’t exist. We are seeking to put a stop to this unlawful conduct and protect immigrant communities from this scam artist,” said Chiu.
Along with extending the injunction, Chiu’s office is also asking the court to ensure recent victims get access to their immigration documents and to be notified that their cases were not handled by licensed attorneys. The city is also seeking penalties and fees against Lacayo, along with business transaction records.