Posted: Mar 31, 2014 8:09 PM
Updated: Mar 31, 2014 8:09 PM
EDINBURG - A McAllen man accused of practicing law without a license went before a judge on Monday.
Emilio Zabala made the court appearance to hear the case against him.
The courtroom was packed with at least 15 witnesses, some of whom were there to testify against Zabala
The case began about three years ago when the Texas Attorney General's Office charged Zabala with practicing law without a license. He allegedly charged people for immigration services he couldn't legally provide.
The attorney general obtained a permanent injunction that barred Zabala from offering services as an attorney.
In January, several of Zabala's former clients contacted CHANNEL 5 NEWS. Everyone said they had paid Zabala hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars to help them with their citizenship applications. The clients said they paid the money in cash and up front, but little to nothing was done in their cases. The government eventually cancelled their applications. Now they must start the process all over again.
The day after the story aired, the AG's office took action. They asked a judge to hold Zabala in contempt for violating that injunction.
Mercedes Ayala was in court on Monday. She said Zabala took her money and did nothing. She said she's not alone.
"I wish there was something or someone that could put a stop to cases like this," Ayala said.
The judge heard from a state investigator and former clients. The hearing should last through Tuesday, when the judge will decide if Zabala violated the injunction and if he should go to jail.
The AG's office is asking for up to six months of jail time in the case. They also are asking for civil penalties of up to $50,000 dollars and restitution for the victims.
Zabala refused to comment on the case.