Crimes of affinity | Buzz Blog

Monday, July 6, 2009

Crimes of affinity

Posted By on July 6, 2009, 7:02 PM

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Following CW's breaking of the story on May 6, 2009 of Leticia Avila allegedly taking thousands of dollars from undocumented LDS church members in an immigration scam, the Utah State Bar has finally stepped in to put an end to her alleged phoney-shyster game. The CW story, Money for nothing, documented how Avila charged numerous South American couples in her LDS ward $4,000 each to get their papers done by a Mr Fix-it known only to her. Using her religious connections in this way, according to the Bar's court docs, is known as affinity fraud. 

With the scam's at least 16-plus victims facing imminent deportation, they might take meager satisfaction from knowing that the Utah State Bar has gone after Avila in court for allegedly falsely representing herself as a lawyer. The Bar's papers, which were filed July 1, state Avila has been "engaged in a continuing course and pattern of conduct which constitutes the unauthorized practice of law and fraud," from 2005 to June 2009. The court docs also state Avila's links with a Sandy-based law firm, Ayres Law Firm, helped "enhance" her claims she was a lawyer. The bar is seeking a permanent injunction against Avila practising law without authorization and restitution for her alleged victims. Whether this court case means her victims, many of whom face deportation, will get to stay in the United States to see the court proceedings through remains unclear.  

Despite immigration lawyers in some cases having highly questionable reputations, this particularly lucrative sector of the legal community rarely if ever turns on their own. Avila, it seems, is the exception to the rule. But then, of course, she isn't an immigration lawyer.


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