Los Angeles – Thanks in large part to Hispanic media, she’s known chiefly as an immigration activist. But now, Gloria Saucedo, the director of Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, has a criminal record.
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s office obtained a conviction against Saucedo for practicing law without a license, and her organization, Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, for performing unauthorized paralegal services.
The city pressed charges against Saucedo in March of this year, following consumer complaints and an undercover investigation that revealed numerous violations of the Immigrant Consultant Act, as well as shoddy legal advice she and her organization provided that adversely affected two women who paid Saucedo thousands of dollars and lost their legal status.
Saucedo, 65, pled “no contest” to the charges as part of a negotiated deal, in which the city attorney agreed to drop four of the five charges against her and Hermandad.
“She's not contesting the allegation, but in eyes of the law she's guilty,” Frank T. Mateljan, a spokesman for the L.A. City Attorney's Office, told Fox News Latino.
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Saucedo was sentenced to 24 months of probation, 200 hours of community service and ordered to pay restitution to at least seven victims. That is pending a restitution hearing in October. The victims, who are cooperating, are scheduled to be present.
Saucedo also pled no contest on behalf of Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional to an infraction for performing unauthorized paralegal services, requiring the group to pay a $2,000 fine.
Although Saucedo’s probation period has begun, she won’t have to do any community service,
pay the fine or comply with restitution yet, because those have been stayed by the court, pending appeal.
Saucedo’s defense attorney, Marc S. Rosen is appealing the charges because, he claims, City Attorney Mike Feuer has no jurisdiction to charge his client.
“The California State Bar can’t regulate what people do in federal immigration proceedings,” he said outside the courtroom. “The City Attorney shouldn’t be charging my client in this case, because it goes beyond the scope of their jurisdiction.”
That argument won’t fly, Mateljan contends. He points out that Rosen already presented the argument in a procedural maneuver in May and Judge Gustavo N. Sztraicher rejected it.
When asked about her no contest plea, Saucedo said, “It’s more important to make a deal so I can continue to work and continue to serve the community.”
She stood firm in denying she was guilty of the charges. “I have been working since 1997. This is just because California is looking for notarios. But I’m accredited to serve the community.”
Saucedo refers to the accreditation she received from the Department of Justice’s Executive Office of Immigration Review in September 2015, after the undercover investigation that led to the charges being filed.
According to Kathryn Mattingly, from the USDOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, Saucedo applied for accreditation twice before that - in March 4, 2011, and Sept. 28, 2011, but was denied.
“The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) issued decisions denying recognition of Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional on June 27, 2011, and March 9, 2012,” Mattingly told Fox News Latino via email.
It is possible that the BIA could withdraw Saucedos accreditation from last year.
“Applicants for accreditation must demonstrate that they have good moral character. Applicants may do so by submitting documents that show a lack of criminal record,” Mattingly stated.
Something Saucedo now has.
Feuer initially filed other criminal charges against Saucedo and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional – three counts apiece of failing to comply with the Immigration Consultants Act and two counts of unlicensed practice of law.
Two of Saucedo’s associates - Carmen Onchi, 27, and Maria Chavez, 33 - were also charged with one count each of unlicensed practice of law.
As part of the plea arrangement, the charges against both were dropped.
María Delgado, who has previously been outspoken about the damage caused to her by Saucedo and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, was unavailable to comment on the outcome of the case.
Follow Veronica Villafañe @veronicav