herrera.JPGSan Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has secured a preliminary injunction against a firm accused of running an immigration law practice that he alleges defrauded thousands of clients.

A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled on Friday that Christopher Stender and his firm Immigration Practice Group must immediately stop aiding former attorney Martin Guajardo in the unauthorized practice of law, Herrera’s office announced Monday.

Guajardo, who resigned from the State Bar of California in 2008, is accused of continuing to practice law while engaging in deceptive business practices that swindled clients of thousands of dollars, and causing adverse rulings and deportations, according to the city attorney’s office.

Herrera filed a lawsuit against Guajardo in November, saying at the time that he was “the most notorious practitioner in his field.”

However, more than four months later, the city attorney’s office has still not been able to locate Guajardo to serve him with the lawsuit.

“We’re trying all kinds of different avenues to locate him,” said Jack Song, spokesman for Herrera’s office.

Herrera alleges that Guajardo would often meet alone with clients with the help of Stender, a licensed attorney, and did not inform them of his resignation from the legal profession. He would then have other lawyers handle the cases in court.

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

The preliminary injunction requires Stender and the Immigration Practice Group to cease practicing law in concert with Guajardo, and also orders the firm to notify all of his former and current clients that he is not authorized to practice law.

Herrera said in a statement that the injunction “is an important step to protect immigrants and their families, too many of whom have been robbed of their chance at the American dream.”

The Immigration Practice Group did not immediately return a call for comment today.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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