Stockton-based immigration lawyer Yehlen “Mary” Dorothea Brooks has pleaded guilty to 15 counts of grand theft for defrauding dozens of immigrants seeking citizenship, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Monday.
In return for a guilty plea offered in San Joaquin County Superior Court, she is expected to receive a five-year split sentence to be served locally. The plea agreement also requires her to pay $371,709 in restitution to the victims, which could number more than 100, the attorney general’s office said.
Brooks, 53, was licensed by the Kansas State Bar until she was disbarred in March 2015, according to the attorney general’s office. Despite losing her license, Brooks continued to offer her legal services in the Stockton area without disclosing she was no longer an attorney.
“This is a cruel case in which a scam artist exploited hard-working immigrants to benefit her own pocket,” Becerra said Monday in a statement. “The California Department of Justice has zero tolerance for those who prey on and defraud families in need of legal help. Criminals like Brooks ruin lives and tear families apart – and they will be held accountable.”
Brooks, of Manteca, operated in Stockton from 2003 to 2017, targeting immigrant clients from places such as Latin America and India. Charging them between $3,000 and $16,000, “she repeatedly misled victims about the status of their cases and lied about paperwork she had submitted while continuing to collect their money,” the attorney’s general office said in a statement. “Some victims who trusted her with every last dollar were detained and deported.”
According to the felony complaint filed against Brooks, one case involved Rosario Flores and his common-law wife, Marcela Lopez. The two met with Brooks in November 2014 while seeking legal status for Flores. Their daughter had brain cancer, and they wanted to take her to Mexico to meet her grandfather.
By April 2015, Brooks had collected $12,000 from the couple and led them to believe that Flores would receive legal status so they could travel as a family to Mexico. Their daughter died in August 2015. When the couple met with another immigration attorney in January 2016, they learned Brooks had been disbarred.
By Stephen Magagnini for THE SACRAMENTO BEE
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