money.jpgSan Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera today filed a lawsuit against a former lawyer accused of running an immigration law practice for more than two years that defrauded thousands of clients.

Martin Resendez Guajardo, believed to be controlling a San Francisco law practice called the Immigration Practice Group, P.C., is “the most notorious practioner in his field,” Herrera said during a news conference at City Hall this morning.

Guajardo, who resigned from the State Bar of California in 2008, is accused of continuing to practice law anyway while engaging in deceptive business practices that swindled clients of thousands of dollars and causing adverse rulings and deportations, Herrera said.

Through the Immigration Practice Group, set up with the aid of licensed attorney Christopher Stender, Guajardo often met alone with clients and allegedly did not inform them of his resignation from the legal profession, according to Herrera. He then would have other lawyers handle the cases in court.

Guajardo often gave clients flawed legal advice and would file numerous appeals that had no merit with the intent to further inflate his legal fees, Herrera said.

In many cases, “Money was taken out of their pocket, and no work was done,” he said.
No one at Guajardo’s law firm was available for comment today.

Lynne Hermle, a partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, a firm that filed a class action lawsuit today on behalf of all clients that Guajardo has represented since his resignation from the State Bar, said his actions eluded authorities for two years because of the nature of immigration law.

“If you do a bad job, it’s a perfect situation. Your client is deported,” Hermle said.

She said her firm and the city attorney’s office were eventually made aware of Guajardo’s actions from a few victims that came forward, as well as other immigration lawyers who took over for him on various cases.

Herrera said Guajardo was “taking advantage of some of our most vulnerable” community members throughout the city.

The victims are from “virtually every community,” he said.

“You name it, he was involved in it,” he said.

Supervisor David Campos also criticized Guajardo at today’s news
conference, saying he is known to drive a Rolls Royce and wear pricey suits.

“When this case is done, you’ll see the fancy cars and expensive suits of Mr. Guajardo were paid for by the sweat and tears of every immigrant he’s defrauded,” Campos said.

The lawsuit alleges multiple violations of California’s unfair competition law and could result in civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation. The firm could also face the giving up of profits, restitution to victims, and injunctions preventing the firm from continuing its business practices.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe has set up a phone number for people who might have been victims of Guajardo and his firm. People can call (415) 773-4266 for more information about the case and how to be included in it.

A free workshop is also being organized for victims of immigration fraud.

The workshop–presented by the city attorney’s office Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, the Immigration Legal Resource Center, the Asian Law Caucus, and other groups–is scheduled for Dec. 1 at the Louis B. Mayer Lounge at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, located at 200 McAllister St. in San Francisco.

Information is available in English, Spanish, Hindi, French, Cantonese and Mandarin. For more information about the clinic, call (415) 773-4269.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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