ROCKFORD — Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed a lawsuit alleging a Belvidere woman “operated immigration assistance scams costing immigrants thousands of dollars for fraudulent and unauthorized services.”
Madigan’s lawsuit, which was filed in Winnebago County, alleges Armendina “Dina” Romero “advised people on immigration matters, prepared and submitted applications for legal immigration status,” even though Romero is not a licensed attorney, is not employed by immigration attorneys, does not work for an agency authorized to provide immigration services, and has not registered with the attorney general’s office, as required by state law.
Madigan’s lawsuit alleges Romero “charged at least two consumers a total of $3,000, exceeding the statutory limit set by Immigration Services rules.”
The suit also alleges Romero informed at least one person that she worked with a church in preparing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, applications, giving the impression that her services were free.
In addition, Madigan’s lawsuit alleges Romero violated the law by failing to provide written contracts to explain her services or costs and failing to inform consumers of their right to cancel a contract within 72 hours or their right to have their documents returned.
The defendant “exploited the fear and confusion that many immigrants experience to take their money,” Madigan said in a news release. “I urge people, regardless of their legal status, to contact my office for information on legitimate immigration help or if they have been the victim of fraud. My office does not ask for immigration status.”
Romero has been the subject of two complaints filed with the state AG’s office, records obtained by the Register Star under the Freedom of Information Act show.
In April 2015, Romero was accused of charging $600 for assistance in completing DACA forms intended for work permits.
“Ms. Romero is a notary public in Illinois and not a licensed attorney, and she is selling immigration-based ‘legal advice’ and preparing immigration applications for members of the undocumented community in northern Illinois in direct violation of the Illinois Notary Public Act,” attorney Shannon Powell said in the complaint.
A separate August 2015 complaint stated: “My son … was at a barbershop getting his haircut and talking about applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Dina Romero was at the same shop and told my son that she did these applications, that she worked for a church, and helped people out with these applications.”
She charged $1,200. The Illinois Notary Public Act states that the maximum charge for an immigration form is $75.
Romero said over the phone that she had resolved the two complaints against her and denied the lawsuit’s claims.
“What? Oh my god! That is such a lie,” Romero said. “I should countersue (Madigan) for defamation of character. I don’t know why she’s doing that.”
Romero says she continues to help Spanish-speaking people who ask for translations when dealing with attorneys and other services. A website operated by the secretary of state indicates that Dina Romero is an active notary public.