A Whittier paralegal was arrested Thursday on a federal grand jury indictment charging her with defrauding clients of various immigration law firms by depositing payments for legal services and filing fees into her personal bank account, depriving clients of the legal aid for which they had paid.
Tanya Garcia, 40, is charged with six counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft for allegedly defrauding the immigration law firms and their clients out of $181,344. If convicted of all charges, Garcia would face up to 62 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
According to the indictment, Garcia worked as a paralegal at various immigration law firms in Los Angeles and Riverside counties. The law firms assisted clients with matters such as obtaining asylum, relief from deportation, residency and citizenship issues, and work permits.
From at least October 2014 until last October, Garcia collected payments from clients and represented that the payments would be used for immigration-related legal services and filing fees, according to the indictment.
Garcia allegedly instructed the clients to leave the “pay to” line on money orders and checks blank. She then wrote in her own name and, on multiple occasions, replaced “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” with her own name, the indictment alleges.
Garcia allegedly deposited the payments into her personal bank accounts and used the money for personal expenses, including her mortgage, credit card bills and clothes. When the law firms’ clients realized they were not receiving any legal services after paying Garcia, she refused to permit the clients to speak to a licensed lawyer, according to the indictment.
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