LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A Lynwood woman posing as an immigration attorney in order to defraud clients over several years has been arrested, federal authorities announced Thursday.
Thirty-six-year-old Jessica Godoy Ramos was taken into custody Wednesday night on accusations she stole the identity and bar license of a New York attorney with a similar name in order to file between 30 and 50 immigration petitions on behalf of several unsuspecting foreign nationals.
According to the U.S. attorney’s office, Ramos took thousands of dollars from immigrants who were attempting to obtain legal residency in the U.S.
According to the federal complaint, Ramos dropped out of USC Gould School of Law in 2010 and also failed the bar exam. However, Gilien Silsby, a spokesperson for the law school, told CBS2 Thursday afternoon that Ramos was never enrolled at the school.
Between 2014 and 2016, she worked at the law offices of attorney Alfonso Morales in Lynwood. She conned her way into the job by falsely claiming to be an attorney and creating a fraudulent New York State Bar Association card.
In some cases, she filed immigration petitions for her clients, but in others, she simply took their money and did nothing. In one case, she created fake immigration parole documents that a client used to enter the country, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a news release.
The investigation into Ramos began in February when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) received a tip from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regarding five of Ramos’ clients who had showed up at USCIS offices in downtown L.A. expecting to receive “non-existent green cards.”
“The crimes alleged in this case victimized dozens of immigrants who were attempting to realize the American dream by paying someone they thought was a lawyer,” said Sandra Brown, acting U.S. attorney for the Central District of California. “This type of scam, which unfortunately targets new immigrants too often, undermines our immigration system and can shatter dreams of obtaining legal status to remain in the United States.”
Ramos is charged with mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. She faces a maximum sentence of 22 years in prison.