RIVERSIDE (CBSLA.com) – A Riverside attorney and his girlfriend were arrested Thursday on accusations they attempted to extort several immigrant-owned salons and dry cleaners.
Riverside police report that 39-year-old Rogelio Morales, an immigration attorney, and 32-year-old Mireya Arias were taken into custody on several counts of extortion and burglary.
Police said the extortion attempts occurred between April and June of 2016. According to police, Morales and Arias would visit a business and obtain “minimal services.” Days later, Morales would deliver court documents to the business on behalf of his supposed client, Arias, claiming that the business had violated the Gender Tax Act, along with other various business laws.
The California Gender Tax Act, signed in 1995, prohibits businesses from charging female customers more than male customers based solely on their gender.
The business owners were all either Hispanic or Asian, police said.
In his court documents, Morales would cite penalties ranging from $20,000 to $123,000. However, he would offer to settle for $10,000. It was not clear if any of the businesses paid Morales.
A police investigation into Morales and Arias ensued, during which several of the businesses hired attorneys. One such attorney organized a protest outside Morales’ law firm. Police said that Morales responded by posting threatening messages on the attorney’s social media account. This prompted the victim to seek a restraining order against Morales.
Despite the restraining order and the ongoing investigation, police said Morales continued to threaten the businesses with litigation if they did not pay him $10,000.
Morales and Arias were booked into the Robert Presley Detention Center.
Morales’ firm is called the Law Offices of Rogelio V. Morales. Anyone who believes they were victimized by him or his firm is asked to call detectives at 951-353-7103.