Chicago Woman Indicted for Posing as Immigration Attorney

"Maricela Haro had an elaborate strategy for finding vulnerable immigrants and scamming them out of thousands of dollars.

Some of Haro’s victims say her scheme revolved around winning their trust. It went like this: She falsely claimed that she was an immigration attorney, and that her brother was a high-ranking U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services official who would sign off on any legal residency application. She offered to meet potential clients at a restaurant, rather than at her downtown office, so she wouldn’t have to charge a $200 consultation fee. Then she promised them she could secure a permanent residency status within a year--regardless of their circumstances.

After she charged an initial $2,500 as part of the “application fee,” she went on to grow personally close with her victims.

... But Haro didn’t deliver what she promised, the victims said. After taking application fees, she told them to wait for a letter in the mail--sometimes for a year or more--and always came up with excuses when it didn’t arrive. After a while, she stopped answering calls.

The victims sought out a help from Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia. His staff helped them file complaints at the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission and the Chicago Police Department.

That led to Haro’s October arrest. She has since been indicted on “theft of property obtained by deception” for allegedly scamming 12 people, according to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. She is being held at the Cook County Jail until a Nov. 26 hearing and was unavailable to comment for this story.

Haro’s case provides a rare glimpse into a serious problem of immigration fraud that continues to plague immigrant communities." -  María Inés Zamudio, Nov. 15, 2013.