Case targets ‘predator’ immigration attorney

Desperate immigrants seeking legal help were allegedly preyed upon by a disgraced attorney who charged them illegal prices for shoddy representation that led to deportations, city officials said Monday.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit Wednesday calling Martin Guajardo a “notorious predator” who gave up his law license in 2008 after he was accused of charging high fees but not providing adequate counsel.

The 21-page civil complaint claims Guajardo has been preying on “desperate immigrants” for more than 35 years. After he was forced to retire from law two years ago, he allegedly started San Francisco-based Immigration Practice Group, using licensed attorney Christopher Stender as a “front” for the law firm.

After charging “exorbitant” fees, Guajardo did “little or nothing” on cases involving “desperate clients” who faced immediate deportation or had family members in custody, the lawsuit said.

In some cases, Guajardo made false promises to clients seeking citizenship knowing he could not win their case, Herrera said.

In cases that typically cost $6,000 to $10,000, he would charge some clients around $60,000, according to the civil complaint.

Meanwhile, the high-rolling “predator” drives a Rolls Royce and wears Armani suits, Herrera said.

“That fancy car and expensive suits that Mr. Guajardo has were all paid for with sweat and tears,” Supervisor David Campos said. “He found people when they were at their most vulnerable.”

Guajardo’s alleged victims have varied backgrounds and include Hispanics, Russians and Indians in San Francisco.

Herrera’s lawsuit seeks to halt Immigration Practice Group from continuing to do business. He hopes the District Attorney’s Office will use the lawsuit to file criminal charges against Guajardo and Stender.

In conjunction with The City’s legal action, a separate firm filed a class-action lawsuit seeking restitution for victims.

Anyone who may have been a victim of Guajardo or his firm are encouraged to call (415) 773-4266, city officials said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsCrimeCrime & CourtsDennis HerreraLocalSan Francisco

Just Posted

A large crack winds its way up a sidewalk along China Basin Street in Mission Bay on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
San Francisco’s sinking sidewalks: Is climate change to blame?

‘In the last couple months, it’s been a noticeable change’

An empty residential care bed at the Broderick Street Adult Residential Facility. (Courtesy RAMS Inc.)
Can San Francisco stop the extinction of small assisted living facilities?

‘The impact is dramatic. These are the folks who built this city’

For years, Facebook employees have identified serious harms and proposed potential fixes. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, pictured in 2019, and COO Sheryl Sandberg have rejected the remedies, causing whisteblowers to multiply. (Eric Thayer/New York Times)
Facebook’s problems at the top: Social media giant is not listening to whistleblowers

Whistleblowers multiply, but Zuckerberg and Sandberg don’t heed their warnings

In California to date, only about 42% of guards and 57% of all prison staffers are fully vaccinated. (iStock)
Judge requires COVID vaccines for California prison guards

Mandate would ‘lower the risk of preventable death among incarcerated persons’

Maria Jimenez swabs her 7-year-old daughter Glendy Perez for a COVID-19 test at Canal Alliance in San Rafael on Sept. 25. (Penni Gladstone/CalMatters)
Rapid COVID-19 tests in short supply in California

‘The U.S. gets a D- when it comes to testing’

Most Read