Fake Pasco lawyer agrees to pay victims who sought immigration help

A Pasco man who bilked people out of money by claiming to be an immigration attorney agreed Thursday to pay $140,468 in restitution.

The restitution order in the case against Jose Antonio Martinez was determined in Franklin County Superior Court on the second day of a contested hearing into how much money he would have to pay the victims.

Martinez, who goes by Tony Martinez, pleaded guilty in August 2014 to second-degree extortion and unlawful practice of law. He was sentenced to 364 days in county jail.

Martinez never did any actual legal work for the immigrants who came to him, and some ended up deported because of his defective misrepresentations, prosecutors said. He was not qualified to offer legal advice.

Investigators identified about 30 victims during a three-year period. He operated several storefronts in downtown Pasco.

“We encourage anyone seeking immigration or other legal work to verify that the person is a licensed attorney before paying any money or deposit for services,” Prosecutor Shawn Sant said in a news release.

He encourages verification through the attorney directory on the Washington State Bar Association’s website, www.wsba.org.

Sant credited Deputy Prosecutor Teddy Chow with “his diligence in bringing this case to a close and (getting) justice for the many victims who were defrauded by Martinez.”

Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531, @KristinMKraemer