SAN ANTONIO — The Department of Justice says a San Antonio man fraudulently represented migrants at least 100 times despite the fact he no longer had a law license.
Jose Maria Guerrero is one of two people arrested in an attorney impersonation scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Court documents indicate Guerrero resigned from the State Bar of Texas amid disciplinary actions in 2016.
He started working with licensed attorney Rodolfo Solis Zepeda and his law office shortly following the resignation.
Court documents say Guerrero impersonated Zepeda in telephonic immigrant court hearings. Zepeda or one of his employees used his office’s phone number when connecting to the immigration court hearings. The calls from immigration court forwarded to Guerrero’s personal cell phone where he would then proceed to claim he was Zepeda during the hearing.
Homeland Security Investigations learned of at 100 different times where Guerrero fraudulently represented himself as Zepeda before immigration court. The alleged impersonation activity occurred between December 2019 and January 2022.
“This is very bizarre. I don’t see the purpose,” said Gerardo Menchaca, a San Antonio-based immigration lawyer.
Menchaca reviewed the court documents and wagered the only reason for such activity would be if Guerrero, the unlicensed attorney, had a better handle on immigration court cases compared to Zepeda. He believes the immigrants impacted by Guerrero and Zepeda’s alleged actions will be hurt in the long run.
“A lot of these immigrants are in life-or-death situations. They’re fleeing wars and violence,” Menchaca said. “If the hearing that you already had was done by a non-lawyer it’s conceivable that that hearing’s going to be thrown out and then you’re going to get a new hearing date, but that new hearing date may not come for years so the victims are the clients who are going to have to wait years.”
Menchaca wonders what else this means for the future of the clients impacted who may now lack confidence whose representing them in the court of law.
“Whenever somebody feels like they can’t trust their lawyer, then the question that that immigrant has is who can I trust,” he said.
Guerrero and Zepeda have been charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and five counts of false statements. Both men face up to five years in prison on each of the six counts.