HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Federal authorities have indicted a woman accusing her of posing as an immigration attorney and making off with her clients’ money.
Jessica Marie Rubio, 30, faces seven criminal counts connected to the allegation. The charges against her are laid out in a 15-page indictment filed on Oct. 10.
Prosecutors allege that Rubio claimed to be an attorney with connections to the government and an ability to fast-track undocumented immigrants to legal status. The indictment says she made more than $75,000 from the scam in Michigan and Texas since 2015.
Sarah Yore-Van Oosterhout, the executive director and managing attorney at Lighthouse Immigrant Advocates, says the type of fraud alleged is not unique.
She says that today’s political climate when it comes to immigration matters has heightened fear and made an environment where those in the country illegally are more susceptible to being taken advantage of.
“The rhetoric in general has created a situation that’s ripe for predatory scams,” Yore-Van Oosterhout said.
The federal government alleges that Rubio cost her clients thousands of dollars, but Yore-Van Oosterhout said scammers can also do irreparable harm.
“We try to mitigate damages as much as possible but in some situations, it’s way out of our control,” Yore-Van Oosterhout said.
Those preying on the undocumented immigrant community often go undetected because the victims fear that reporting the perpetrator to authorities can expose them to additional risk.
Yore-Van Oosterhout suggests those seeking an attorney’s service ask the lawyer for their bar card and look them up online. If an attorney isn’t willing to share it, find someone else.
The type of crime Rubio is accused of can have devastating ramifications for the victims.
“Giving them false hope. That, I think, is the worst thing to me,” Yore-Van Oosterhout said. “To me, that is just so heinous.”