- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing a Shakopee woman and her companies of falsely posing as immigration lawyers.

Swanson alleges that Ornella Hammerschmidt and her companies charged immigrants thousands of dollars for legal work on immigration matters that she was not legally authorized to perform.

The lawsuit was filed in Hennepin County against Hammerschmidt and two companies, American Group US Inc. and The Legacy Firm Corp., which she runs.

Swanson alleges the defendants charged Spanish-speaking immigrants with limited English language proficiency as much as $12,000 for legal work on applications for citizenship, asylum and other immigration matters. The lawsuit says Hammerschmidt is not an attorney but identified herself as one, and also said her companies were capable of providing immigration legal services.

“This is an example of someone exploiting the complexity and cost of the legal process to their own advantage and to the detriment of others,” Swanson said in a news release.

The lawsuit alleges violations of Minnesota’s immigration services law, unauthorized practice of law statute and consumer protection laws. The lawsuit seeks an injunction and restitution for consumers.

Phone messages left for Hammerschmidt were not immediately returned Tuesday.

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