Case Study: One Shady Immigration Lawyer and K-1 Petitions

By David North on January 16, 2012

Some immigration lawyers are brilliant and hard-working; many others are competent and dutiful.

Still others, down the continuum of the immigration bar, are reasonably competent, but do not do well by their clients because they take on too many (of these usually ill-paid) assignments. Other are just well-intentioned bumblers, who should be making a living some other way.

At the very bottom of this range are the lawyers who knowingly file dishonest petitions (thus cheating the government) while misleading their clients by telling them they have a chance for legal status, when they do not, or should not.

Somewhere near the bottom, but not quite there, are lawyers like L. Tod Schlosser, who take money from their clients, do nothing for them, and then mislead the bar's disciplinary authorities about their practices.

Schlosser's case comes to mind because he was one of the most recent lawyers to be expelled from the immigration tribunals, according to this press release from the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR); the rationale for that decision is laid out in the public record in some detail.

Schlosser's case also shows the slowness of the attorney discipline process. While the first actions that led to his disbarment took place in 2003 or 2004, EOIR did not order his expulsion from its courts until October 18, 2011.

Schlosser's practice, or perhaps non-practice, of the law was very specialized. He offered assistance to U.S. citizen males who, apparently despairing of the American marriage market, opted for Asian wives, usually from the Philippines.

His specialty was the K-1 visa, one of the more obscure ways to arrange alien-citizen marriages; this is used when one partner is in the U.S., and the other overseas. The K-1 nonimmigrant visa allows the holder to come to the U.S. for 90 days and expects a marriage within that time frame. In most alien-citizen marriages, on the other hand, both of them are already in the U.S., and no short-term visa is needed.

According to the hearings before the Hearing Board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, or ARDC, on December 29, 2010, Schlosser on eight different occasions took advance fees – usually in the $3,000 to $5,000 range – and promised the male client that he would take care of the K-1 visas and render other services as needed. (To see the hearing record, go here and click on "Rules and Decisions".)

He apparently got his clients through internet (and perhaps other) advertisements of his services for the RHC law group. Its pitch was – and is – "we specialize in results not promises."

I say is because the web site is still there, with Schlosser still listed as president and CEO, or at least that is the way it was as of January 16. (I also called the toll-free number listed on the website and found the robo-answering system is still in place.)

Returning to Schlosser's practice, the problem, at least in these eight cases, was that he did not file the petitions; the men eventually lost their patience, demanded their money back, but to no avail. Then, in several of the cases that reached the ARDC, Schlosser promised the agency that he would make at least partial repayment of the fees, but never, in fact, did so.

In one instance the frustrated would-be groom was from Canada; in another, Schlosser also promised his male client that he would arrange for an annulment of the Filipino woman's marriage. (Annulment, not divorce, is used to terminate marriages in that country.)

Five years after the first of these cases, on May 29, 2009, the Illinois state agency filed a multiple-count charge against Schlosser. After launching an investigation, with which Schlosser did not cooperate, the ARDC hearing panel recommended that Schlosser be disbarred on December 29, 2010.

On May 18, 2011, the State Supreme Court agreed, and ordered the disbarment. Five months later EOIR expelled him from the immigration courts ... but a recorded voice for the RHC law group is still there, at (877) 354-7463, asking you to provide your full name with the implication that they will call you right back.