Texas Scorches|Disbarred Attorney

     SAN ANTONIO (CN) – A fast-talking immigration attorney bilked clients for thousands of dollars, making up stories about them without their knowledge and lining them up for deportation, the Texas attorney general claims in court.
     Paul A. Esquivel, “a recently disbarred immigration attorney,” has offices in San Antonio, Austin and Dallas, the attorney general says in the Monday complaint in Bexar County Court.
     Also named as defendants are Esquivel’s eponymous law firms, and JCP Law Firm & Associates, JCP Law Office, their registered agent Olvia Martinez, and Juan Carlos Penaflor, an attorney.
     The lengthy lawsuit describes Esquivel preying upon people “with limited education and no knowledge of the United States’ legal system.” He claimed he could get them work permits, for “thousands of dollars,” then applied them for political asylum, without telling them and knowing they did not qualify for it, the state says.
     All that did, in effect, was enter them into the system for inevitable deportation.
     Such scams are not unusual in Texas. The government often unwittingly helps the crooked attorneys or, more often, notaries, by deporting the people they defrauded.
     “Esquivel instructed employees of his law firm to sign consumers up for his ‘asylum program’ even though the consumers were not eligible for relief under U.S. asylum laws” the complaint states. He also “directed his employees to ‘cold call’ consumers to make misrepresentations that induced the consumers to sign up for his ‘asylum program,'” the attorney general says. He cold-called their friends and relatives too.
     For one client, who had lived in the United States for 18 years, Esquivel concocted a story that his daughter had been kidnapped and extorted by Mexican drug cartels – but he never told the family Word One about it, the state says.
     But his client never told Esquivel or anyone at his office “that anything remotely similar happened to his family,” and only learned about it when he was told to report for an asylum interview, according to the lawsuit. Once entered into the system, deportation in such cases is virtually inevitable.
     He applied another Mexican family for asylum based on “general violence” in Mexico, though they and their children had lived in the United States for 10 years and had no fear of returning to Mexico. “At no time did Esquivel disclose to the Cruzes that if he sought asylum on their behalf they would be subject to removal. Had the Cruzes known the risks of applying for asylum, they never would have let Esquivel submit an asylum application to the government,” the state says. The family was ordered to leave the United States.
     Nor did Esquivel translate documents written in English to Spanish-speaking clients, including a client named Gonzalez, whom he told to seek asylum as “the easiest route.”
     “Without explaining it or translating it to him, Jesus, an employee of Esquivel, had Gonzalez sign a retainer agreement that was written in English. Jesus fabricated Gonzalez’s asylum application with allegations that Gonzalez and his family were in danger of being targeted by the drug cartel,” the complaint states.
     Esquivel has a law degree from Southern Methodist University and a master’s in comparative law from the University of London.
     He was suspended from practicing law from 2005 through 2009, according to the State Bar of Texas. He surrendered his law license on Aug. 28 this year, “in lieu of being disciplined,” the attorney general says.
     But that wasn’t enough, the state says. He provided no notice to his clients, and then “knowingly sold his firm to a non-lawyer, Olvia Martinez, even though non-lawyers are prohibited from owning a law firm.”
     Defendant Penaflor, an attorney, “works for the ‘new’ firm, JCP Law Firm & Associates, PLLC, and represents to consumers that he is the owner of the firm,” according to the complaint.
     Esquivel could not be reached for comment Wednesday. When a reporter called a number listed as Esquivel’s, a receptionist said it was his office and asked if the reporter was a client.
     The state seeks an injunction, rescission of contracts, damages for deceptive trade and business law violations, preservation of books and records, and wants him barred from advertising for legal services, supervising or “consulting” about it, and “harassing or threatening consumers with deportation or other legal action.”
     Advertisements for Esquivel’s law offices, and directions to them, were still posted on the Internet Thursday morning, as were multiple entries from angry former clients accusing him of running a scam. Words such as “scumbag,” “fraud,” “cheating loser,” “sham” and “desperation” appear frequently on lawyer-rating sites.
     One entry, from July 28 this year, states: “Totalmente triste y decepcionado y no tengo palabras.” (Totally sad and deceived; I have no words.)

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