On the home page, Ramirez stands before an image of a waving American flag and offers a personal message, calling immigrants “those brave ones” with “the hope of freedom.” He concludes with a direct appeal: “Let’s give them a chance.”
That message, Ramirez’s charisma and his nicely furnished offices impressed clients. One was Reyna Ordonez-Viera. Ordonez-Viera, who lives in the District and works as a janitor, said she turned to Ramirez after her husband was charged in a drug case last year.
Speaking Spanish, she said Ramirez led her to believe that he was a lawyer and assured her “everything would be fine.” She said she paid Ramirez to represent her husband, borrowing the $2,200 fee from a co-worker.
At the first hearing, Ordonez-Viera said, Ramirez introduced himself as a friend to her husband’s public defender and offered no legal assistance. Ordonez-Viera said that she demanded her money back and that Ramirez gave her a $600 check, which she said bounced.
Ordonez-Viera filed a complaint in D.C. Superior Court and went back to Ramirez for a refund. When she confronted him on an elevator at his office, then in the District, she said he stopped the elevator and threatened to call police and tell them she was a drug trafficker.
“Nobody should believe him,” said Ordonez-Viera, whose husband is behind bars. Her complaint against Ramirez was dismissed because court papers could not be served to him, according to court records.
Ramirez disputes Ordonez-Viera’s account, saying that he never told her he was a lawyer and that she was a client of a lawyer he previously worked for as a paralegal. He denies threatening her and said her money was eventually refunded.
Leiva and other lawyers said the case highlights a pervasive problem in local immigrant enclaves: unlicensed consultants who provide bogus or shoddy legal and immigration work.
In the Latino community, they often go by the term “notario.” In some Latin American countries, a notario publico is legally trained and can provide representation in some matters. In the United States, scammers sometimes get notary public licenses and offer legal advice to clients, who do not understand what a notary does in this country.
In a lawsuit pending in Fairfax County, Eduardo Guerrero Flores says he gave Ramirez $4,000 to post bond for a friend who was being detained by immigration authorities in Pennsylvania.
Flores says Ramirez gave him a bond receipt, but Flores thinks it was probably forged because no bond was ever paid for his friend. The suit says the friend is now facing deportation.
In his initial conversation with Ramirez, Flores says Ramirez told him, in Spanish, “I am an immigration attorney,” according to court documents.