For 13-years Maria Jose Hurtado worked for a law firm that had a contract with the Columbia Consulate in Houston to help with immigration legal matters. She lost that job about a year ago.Î¾ However she allegedly continued to contact detainees and offered her help to keep them in this country.Î¾ About four and half months ago the Consulate contacted the sheriff's depart with a number of complaints that Hurtado was taking money the families of detainees:
"Promising her services, charging different amounts, five thousand, ten thousand even 25-thousand."
Sgt. J.R. McClure says more than two dozen families may have paid her about $100,000.Î¾ He says she not only took the money but then didn't do anything for the detainees.
"Detainee family members paid the money. Detainees were eventually deported, even after paying the money."
The Sheriff's Department says these cases are all from 2008, but it possible Hurtado has been doing this for much longer and there may be more, perhaps many more people who have been victimized.Î¾ Sgt McClure says it is difficult to gather all the evidence in cases like this.
"Because of the immigration status of the detainees.Î¾ Sometimes there's a language barrier."
Hurtado is a Columbia national but a legal permanent resident of the United States. She's locked up on a charge of aggregate theft.