Our client came to the United States from Mexico at age 13. He went to high school in the Los Angeles area, married, was a volunteer soccer coach for his two kids and in 2004, started a home loan refinance company.
The company grew fast. By 2006, he had 130 employees and he was spending enormous money on advertising. He even gave a one-a-week radio and television show on personal finance. He was charismatic and was earning a healthy income.
On payday one month in 2006, he was so busy with operations that he overlooked moving money from one account to another to have sufficient funds for payroll. The payroll company, however, issued checks like it normally did on the 1st and the 15th of the month. All employees received their checks and everyone either cashed them or deposited them as was their need and practice.
However, the payroll company never received all the payroll money that our client was supposed to give to the payroll company for funding. Our client was about $40,540 short. The payroll company then went to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, who investigated the situation further and filed a police report with the District Attorney’s Office.
The District Attorney’s Office then filed a criminal complaint against our client for 20 counts: four counts of grand theft (Penal Code § 487(a)), four counts of writing or passing bad checks (Penal Code § 476a(a)), seven counts of theft by false pretenses (Penal Code § 532a(1)), three counts of attempted theft by false pretenses (Penal Code §§ 664-532a(1)) and two counts of identity theft (Penal Code § 530.5(a)), all felonies. Our client faced over 20 years in state prison if convicted on all counts and Penal Code § 654 did not operate to stay any prison terms, plus an obligation to pay $40,539.63 in restitution.
Over the course of two years of court appearances, our client eventually entered into a plea bargain that resolved the case. As is not uncommon in Orange County (in contrast to Los Angeles County), he pleaded guilty to all 20 counts and was placed on three years of formal probation with an obligation to pay restitution of $40,539.63. He also had to serve 180 days in Orange County jail. His home loan refinance company went bankrupt and dissolved.
When our client completed his jail term, he began working again and formed a personal bankruptcy relief company. The business grew quickly and our client was able to pay off about 90% of the restitution he owed.
However, he defaulted on a personal loan to two people and they went to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. The reader may ponder how such a contract dispute became a criminal offense, but the Orange County Sheriffs investigated our client again, mindful of his prior conviction for similar conduct just a few years earlier.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department filed their report with the District Attorney’s office, which sought an arrest warrant for our client. Our client was then arrested and placed in jail, unable to post bail money.
The new arrest was a probation violation for his first case, so the judge in the first case imposed a three-year prison sentence, which our client then served.
Fast forward to 2021 and the client receives a notice of removal. The client consults with an immigration attorney, who directs the client to contact a criminal defense attorney.
The client consults with several criminal defense attorneys and hires Greg Hill & Associates after speaking with Greg. Greg spoke with the client about what the client knew about the immigration consequences of his convictions when he entered his guilty pleas to the twenty felony counts. The client was never told anything about any consequences and assumed there were no adverse immigration consequences because he was a permanent resident (green card holder) at the time.
Our office then filed a motion to vacate a conviction under Penal Code § 1473.7 including, most importantly, a declaration from our client concerning his awareness and knowledge of the immigration consequences at the time of entering the plea, as well as points and authorities explaining why there was a prejudicial error in the convictions, requiring the judge to vacate all 20 of the legally improper convictions.
The judge assigned to the matter granted the motion, much to our client’s immense relief.