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Notary Bulletin

Sentencing Highlights Penalties Notaries Face For Engaging In Notario Activities

An Indianapolis woman who admitted to advertising herself as a Notario Publico and providing immigration services without being a licensed attorney was sentenced to one year of probation and 40 hours of community service after pleading guilty to charges related to her unauthorized practice of immigration law and tax evasion. The state Attorney General’s office also served her with a notice to pay $58,194 in unpaid taxes or face a lawsuit.

The prosecution and civil actions against Barber came amid a massive national law enforcement crackdown on individuals and businesses that engage in the unauthorized practice of immigration law. Many of these people advertise themselves as Notarios. In Hispanic countries, Notario Publicos are highly trained legal professionals akin to attorneys who provide legal advice and draft legal documents, unlike American Notaries who have narrow witnessing duties. In June, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services joined with the Federal Trade Commission, several other federal agencies and 17 state Attorneys General offices to launch an unprecedented, nationwide campaign to crack down on these scams.

The enforcement effort is being pursued in conjunction with an aggressive public education campaign. As government agencies and professional groups such as the National Notary Association get out the word, it likely will become increasingly difficult for scam artists to tax advantage of unsuspecting immigrants. The NNA has set up a dedicated “What is a Notary?” resource page on its Web site that includes a brochure entitled “What Is A Notary Public?”

In the Indiana case, Barber pleaded guilty to two felony tax evasion charges and one count of practicing law without a license. In addition to the probation and community service, she is permanently barred from providing any type of immigration assistance.

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