Many Salt Lake law firms know the value of a good referral, and word-of-mouth marketing and recommendations for a good lawyer from friends-and-family can be great for firms and clients alike. The lawyer gets more business, the client gets a lawyer they can trust. Most of the time. Other times, though, the worst happens, and expecting a good immigration lawyer in Utah, you end up with a fraudster who takes your money and runs. One woman in Salt Lake City became so adept at preying on unsuspecting individuals in need of an attorney that she’s been practicing law without a license for nearly 20 years.
Most recently, a family got wind of a “good lawyer” from an insider’s tip—that of a fellow inmate. When Troy Floyd was released from serving time for his offense, he followed up on the recommendation and called Mary Ann Lucero (going by Mary Ann Dipoma), who met the Floyd family at their home, took their case and $850 and essentially vanished. “Floyd said she had no reason to doubt that Lucero was actually an attorney,” but she never worked for any Salt Lake law firms (her “business” was Wasatch Legal and Collection Services,”) and no one ever looked up her license with the Utah State Bar Association.
The Salt Lake Tribune warns that “immigrants are often the targets of fake attorneys,” and cautions anyone needing an immigration lawyer in Utah to do their homework to verify their credentials. And since “Utah is one of five states that allows people to work as immigration consultants without a law degree,” it’s probable that scammers like Lucero can more easily pull a fast one on unsuspecting clients in need of an immigration lawyer in Utah or simply immigration paperwork help. Don’t be fooled, though, Salt Lake law firms and the Tribune reiterates, even immigration consultants are required to register with the Utah Office of Consumer Protection, so clients should verify the credentials of consultants, too.
Mary Ann Lucero has been “accused of stealing money from one client she assisted with a spouse life insurance policy pay-out,” and another client needing help with a mortgage foreclosure discovered that the property had been transferred to Lucero’s boyfriend. With a long track record—even serving a sentence in 2009 for practicing law without a license—Lucero “acts with a complete disregard for the permanent injunction and even jail time she has previously done in contempt of this court,” a lawyer for the Bar wrote in a recent court filing.
Apparently this honey badger doesn’t give a whit, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. The Utah State Bar Association attorney directory will let you know whether the guy your friend told you about is working with one of the reputable Salt Lake law firms or attempting to scam you out of your money. And if you discover someone posing as an immigration lawyer in Utah, please don’t hesitate to report it here. The Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee for the State Bar meets monthly and reviews all submitted complaints. Don’t be a victim of these scams; let justice prevail.