Lawsuit: Fake lawyers charged Minn. immigrants up to $12,000 - KMSP-TV

Lawsuit: Fake lawyers charged Minn. immigrants up to $12,000

Posted: Updated:
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed a lawsuit Tuesday against a Shakopee, Minn. woman and her companies that claimed to offer legal help to immigrants with citizenship and asylum issues.

The problem is, the woman is not an attorney and the attorney general alleges she has taken thousands of dollars for services that aren’t legitimate.

IMMIGRANTS CHARGED UP TO $12,000

Ornella Hammerschmidt was listed as an “international attorney” on business cards handed out by American Group US, Inc. and The Legacy Firm Corporation. The lawsuit alleges these companies charged Spanish-speaking immigrants with limited English language proficiency as much as $12,000 for legal work.

“This is an example of someone exploiting the complexity and cost of the legal process to their own advantage and to the detriment of others,” Swanson said.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent further harm, and seeks restitution for consumers.

ACCUSATIONS

A woman said she paid $7,000 to have a visa application submitted on her behalf, but the application contained errors, mistakes, and falsified signatures, forcing the woman to withdraw the application through her new lawyer. The woman worries that this will impact her 16 year-old son, who would someday like to join the U.S. Army.

A man said he paid $5,800 for help obtaining a work permit. After a series of delays and repeated demands for more money from the defendants, he learned the work permit had been issued in another person’s name.

A woman said she told the defendants that facts in her asylum application were untrue, but the defendants told her to submit the forms anyway, putting her at risk for deportation.

A woman said she was ordered to be deported because she missed a court hearing about which the defendants never informed her. The order is now being appealed by her new attorneys.

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