A Marion Superior Court judge has sentenced an Indianapolis woman who admitted to performing immigration services without required licensing and not paying income taxes.
The Indiana Attorney General’s Office filed a criminal tax evasion case against M. Esther Barber, also known as Maria Esther Tapia Cuevas, who was doing business as Asociacion Civica Mexicana De Indiana Inc. on Shelby Street in Indianapolis.
Barber, who is not an attorney, advertised herself to the Spanish-speaking community as a “notario” who can assist with immigration legal issues, but that creates confusion with what’s known as a “notario publico” designation given to attorneys with specialized training.
The case is separate from a civil action the attorney general filed in March against Barber for the unauthorized practice of law under the Deceptive Consumer Practices Act, but both are based on her work on immigration cases.
On Monday, Barber pleaded guilty to criminal charges for her actions as a “notario” and received a one-year probation sentence for two Class D felony counts of income tax evasion and the Class B misdemeanor of the unauthorized practicing of law. She must perform 40 hours of community service, and she agrees she will no longer do any sort of immigration work, according to Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office.
Corbin said Barber admitted in open court that her actions were wrong and harmed people and weren’t just a mere technical violation of the law. If she stays out of trouble for six months, Barber can seek to have her felony record converted to misdemeanors.
After the sentencing, the Attorney General’s Office served Barber with a civil tax assessment notice stating that she owes the Indiana Department of Revenue $58,194.