SAN JOSE — A South Bay man has been arrested for allegedly defrauding as many as 1,000 individuals.
According to www.sanjoseinside.com, James Lopez was arrested on Oct. 25 for providing immigration services without receiving the required clearance from the California Secretary of State, and without the $100,000 bond needed to operate as an immigration consultant.
A former lawyer, Lopez faced multiple disciplinary matters and resigned from the California State Bar in 2002. However, he allegedly continued to practice law without a license and provide immigration services out of his office on La Pradera Drive in Campbell. Lopez’s alleged actions often resulted in serious financial consequences and immigration delays for his victims. His charges include grand theft, forgery and practicing law with no license, according to www.sanjoseinside.com.
According to a news release from Sgt. Rich Glennon of the San Jose Sheriff’s Office, “The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office ... charged Lopez with various felonies including forgery, grand theft, and practicing law without a license."
Glennon told the Northern California Record that the belief that there are up to 1,000 victims "was based on the recovery of nearly 1,000 files during a search warrant."
"We have not identified anywhere near that many victims,” he said. “These victims are very reluctant to come forward for fear of deportation. We have made contact with approximately 50 victims and only 10 so far have been willing to cooperate with the criminal investigation. We know there are many more victims who have yet to come forward."
Such alleged fraud does not seem to come as a surprise to Michelle Cordova, president of the San Jose Peace and Justice Center.
“We’re working a lot with some fraud protection… People tend to be, you know, taken advantage of,” she told the Northern California Record.
Victims of Lopez have resources available to them, according to Glennon’s news release.
“It is critical that those in need of immigration services know that the providers they hire are both competent and are providing services that comply with legal status,” it said. “Local law enforcement is available to help families seek justice regardless of immigration status.”
Other organizations are available to help as well, including the SJPJC.
Having teamed up with San Jose State University, the SJPJC began working with immigrants “four years ago,” Cordova said. “2017 will be our fifth year. And we’ve never charged, we’re all volunteers. The only one who gets paid is the coordinator, everyone gives their time.”
This allows the center to provide important immigration services for little to no cost.
Those of Lopez’s victims who suffered a financial hit can find a bit of relief through SJPJC. The center has developed relationships with many local lawyers and organizations who will help those who are referred by SJPJC.
“We refer them to places, and more and more people, because of our relationships, we can send them to lawyers for free or really low costs for consultations,” Cordova said.