Illinois AG files suit against Waukegan activist

The Illinois attorney general’s office Friday filed a civil lawsuit against a well-known Waukegan activist, alleging that Margaret Carrasco misrepresented herself as an immigration attorney and collected “unconscionable fees” from clients before avoiding them and failing to deliver the legal services she promised.

Carrasco, 51, allegedly deceived at least two clients who sought her services in illegal immigration cases under the impression that was a certified attorney, according to the consumer fraud lawsuit filed in Lake County Circuit Court. Dozens more people in the Waukegan area have expressed concerns to the attorney general’s office about Carrasco’s credentials during community outreach events, the lawsuit states.

“Because the immigration process is so complex and consumers are often desperate for help, the environment is ripe for scam artists,” Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a statement. “This defendant completely misled consumers who needed help, taking their money and putting them at great risk for deportation.”

Reached for comment, Carrasco vigorously denied the allegations, claiming they are retribution for an ongoing legal dispute in federal court over a Waukegan towing ordinance and pending litigation she is behind against the Lake County Sheriff’s office.

“I have never stated that I am a lawyer,” Carrasco said, though she acknowledged that many people in Waukegan consider her to be one. Carrasco added that she has registered herself as merely a legal representative whenever appearing in court and has dropped cases when learning chances of success are unlikely.

“For years, I have been involved in the community,” she said. “I have helped hundreds of immigrants avoid deportation.”

Carrasco received a master’s degree in jurisprudence from Loyola University in 2003. That qualifies her to work as a paralegal or to handle legal correspondence on behalf of employers in business, education or health-care industries, according to a university spokesperson.

The lawsuit alleges that Carrasco repeatedly dodged her clients after collecting fees of as much as $500 from them.

In one case, a man detained in McHenry County Jail on illegal immigration charges hired Carrasco in May, then did not hear from her again. After trying to contact her five times to prepare for a June hearing, the man learned that no documents had been filed on his behalf, the lawsuit alleges.

He was finally released from jail four months later after an attorney with the National Immigrant Justice Center intervened in the case.

The lawsuit seeks to enjoin Carrasco from engaging in legal services in Illinois. It additionally asks for damages of $50,000, plus as much as $60,000 more per each case of fraud discovered.