Houston Woman Uses Texas 'Church' to Scam Immigrants

The office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is suing a Houston woman, saying that she operated an illegal immigration law practice while posing as the leader of a church.

The lawsuit says that the woman, Yolanda Salazar Perez, poses as the director of the New Anointing (“Nueva Uncion”) Biblical Institute/Church but uses the church to mask an illegal law practice. She reportedly files paperwork for immigrants, saying that each one is in the U.S. as a “Special Immigrant Religious Worker” and that they will be “working as a minister” in this country.

Perez and some of her family members are being accused of providing clients with things like work visas, religious worker benefits, and even temporary residence. The other defendants in the case are Bruno Perez, Julie Cortez and Lucina Lopez, who are all Houston residents.

The state of Texas says the defendants are members of the State Bar of Texas, and that Perez's claims that she once worked for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (now U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) and was a contractor for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are completely false.

The state is accusing her of “providing unauthorized immigration services to consumers, engage in false, misleading, and deceptive acts and practices” in violation of Texas law.

So far, Perez has over 300 members that belong to her “church.”

The petition submitted by the state is a request for a restraining order, which was made in an attempt to freeze the defendants' assets so that they might repay those whom they've scammed, if they lose the suit.

"Defendants intentionally deceive financially strapped and unsuspecting consumers by false promises to obtain immigration benefits,” reads the petition, which was filed in the district court in Harris County, Texas on Monday afternoon.

It also says that Perez moves the location of her illegal practice frequently, never staying still for “more than a couple of months at a time” so that she can avoid her victims who might come looking for a refund and government agencies that might come after her.

In Feb. 2005, the Attorney General sued Perez for illegally providing immigration services to nearly 5,000 people in Pasadena, Texas. In 2006 she agreed to an injunction that “bars her from nearly all immigration-related activities,” but she apparently hasn't stopped.

If she loses the case, Perez and the other defendants in the case could face steep financial penalties. In addition to returning the money taken from those who sought her services, the defendants will also owe $20,000 to the state for each victim under the age of 65 and $250,000 for each victim that is a senior citizen.

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