SEATTLE – A disbarred attorney and his business partner were accused of violating the Consumer Protection Act and the Immigration Assistant Practices Act in a case brought by the Washington Attorney General’s Office.
Grosvenor Anschell, owner of Jona Immigration Services in Bellevue, was disbarred in 2000. Soon after, he registered as an immigration assistant with the Secretary of State’s Office. The law allows immigration assistants to provide basic services such as translating documents, securing documents such as birth and marriage certificates, and making referrals to licensed immigration attorneys.
However, Assistant Attorney General Pedro Bernal believes Anschell and his business partner, Samuel Betnona, went far beyond what the law allows and essentially operated an immigration law firm, defying the Supreme Court’s order of disbarment and state law. The Practice of Law Board sent Anschell letters in 2006 and 2008 requesting that he stop practicing law, but he continued to provide legal services.
“Even though Anschell had been disbarred, he continued to advertise and provide legal services as though he were a licensed attorney,” Bernal said. “Moreover, he continued to charge his clients rates on par with what licensed attorneys charge.”
The Attorney General’s Office contends that Anschell’s business partner, Samuel Betnona, also illegally provided advice on immigration matters and prepared documents.
Like most settlements obtained by the Consumer Protection Division, the agreement filed today in King County Superior Court does not require an admission or finding of wrongdoing. But it prohibits the defendants from giving advice regarding the qualifications required for a visa, work permit, residency or citizenship, or otherwise practicing law.
Anschell and Betnona are permitted to translate forms, help a person obtain a birth certificate or other document, and provide other services allowed under the Immigration Assistant Practices Act. However, their contracts must comply with state law and inform customers that they are not attorneys and cannot provide legal advice. The disclaimer must also be displayed on signs in their workplace.
The defendants will pay a $1,000 civil penalty, with an additional $9,000 in civil penalties suspended, provided they comply with a list of restrictions. They will also pay $9,000 to reimburse the state for costs related to the investigation and lawsuit.
“Immigration law is complex and contains many pitfalls,” Bernal said, “which is why anyone in need of help should only trust a licensed attorney who specializes in immigration law to handle their case.”
Jona Immigration Services Complaint
Jona Immigration Services Consent Decree
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