August 31, 2010
Jefferson City, Mo. - Attorney General Chris Koster today obtained a temporary restraining order in the Pettis County Circuit Court prohibiting Immigration Forms & Publications, Inc. (IFP), located in Sedalia, from advertising, offering for sale, or selling immigration forms and services in Missouri or to Missouri consumers.
Koster has filed a lawsuit against the company and its managers, Thomas B. Laurence and Elizabeth L. Meredith, alleging the company defrauded consumers attempting to get immigration forms and information from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
"This temporary restraining order will prevent this company from defrauding further unsuspecting consumers who are trying to follow the law," Koster said. "In the meantime, this office will aggressively pursue this company and any other company that tries to steal money from vulnerable, trusting consumers."
Koster said the company has operated under the names Immigration Forms and Services and U.S. Immigration Center. When consumers - primarily immigrants and their families wanting to obtain green cards, green card renewals, citizenship applications, and other immigration-related documents - conduct an Internet search for the USCIS official website, many have inadvertently accessed one of the IFP websites. The IFP websites direct the consumer to call an 800 number, which is answered by IFP phone operatives in Sedalia. The phone operatives lead consumers to believe they have reached USCIS. IFP then charged consumers fees ranging from $250 to $2,500 to obtain immigration-related forms that they could obtain at no cost from USCIS. However, USCIS charges similar prices to process these forms; IFP did not tell consumers there would be an additional USCIS fee for processing.
In addition, Koster said some IFP customers who paid for forms never received the forms, received out-of-date forms, or received the wrong forms. Also, some IFIP representatives who offered customers assistance in completing the forms provided inaccurate information or made mistakes completing the forms. When consumers eventually discovered they had been duped, they were unable to get refunds.
Koster's lawsuit alleges three counts of Unlawful Merchandising Practices violations and asks the court to issue preliminary and permanent injunctions prohibiting further violations of the law; require the defendants provide full restitution to victims and pay all court and investigative costs; and require defendants pay the state a civil penalty of $1,000 per violation and an amount equal to 10 percent of total restitution ordered.