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Crime Scene
Posted at 03:06 PM ET, 12/10/2012

Legal adviser pleads guilty to defrauding immigrants

An Oakton man who was a popular legal adviser to Latino immigrants pleaded guilty Monday to charges that he took fees from clients but was not licensed to practice law, according to court records.

Luis M. Ramirez, a native of Puerto Rico, had a radio show dispensing legal advice on a local station WURA (920 AM) and regularly appeared in the Spanish language media, including Univision.

Ramirez, 38, pleaded guilty to three felony counts of obtaining money under false pretenses in Fairfax County Circuit Court. He will be sentenced Feb. 22 and faces a maximum of 30 years in prison.

Some of Ramirez’s clients accused him of passing himself off as an attorney and taking thousands of dollars in fees but doing little or no legal work on their behalf.

In one instance, Reyna Ordonez-Viera, a janitor from the District, claimed that she gave Ramirez $2,200 to defend her husband on a drug charge, but said Ramirez never performed the work, then threatened to tell police that she was a drug trafficker when she demanded her money back.

Following his arrest this year, Ramirez said he always told his clients he was a paralegal and followed through on all his contracts. Ramirez declined to comment after Monday’s hearing.

Legal experts said the case highlights a persistent problem in the area’s immigrant enclaves: advisers who offer legal advice, but are unlicensed. In the Latino community, they often go under the name “notarios.”

They say Ramirez’s operation was particularly sophisticated. He operated out of well-appointed offices in Tysons Corner, and his media appearances gave him a high-profile marketing platform.

By  |  03:06 PM ET, 12/10/2012

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