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Local couple accused of defrauding immigrants

Submitted by on 1, February 1, 2010 – 6:00 am2 Comments

Oakland City Attorney John Russo has sued an Alameda couple and one other woman saying the three swindled immigrant families out of thousands of dollars by falsely claiming they could provide legal assistance and obtain certain immigration benefits.

The civil suit, which was filed Thursday in Alameda County Superior Court, seeks $8.2 million in penalties, or $100,000 for each of the 82 alleged violations of the state’s Immigration Consultants Act, plus $150,000 in restitution to the business’ alleged victims.

Russo’s suit claims that Musa Bala Baldé and Irene Penaloza “Aiesha” Baldé, who the suit identifies as the owners of American Legal Services in Oakland, and Glenda Venegas falsely claimed to be attorneys authorized to provide legal services, and that they promised clients immigration benefits and status they were not eligible for. The suit claims that at least two people are facing deportation as a result of the trio’s actions.

It says a former client won a small claims judgment against Musa Bala Baldé in October when the court found Baldé had “misrepresented that he was a (sic) immigration attorney” and that complaints had been lodged with the Oakland and Fremont police departments.

American Legal Services has at least three offices in Oakland, the suit says. It alleges the violations have been taking place since 2007.

The Baldés are the co-founders of the Islamic Center of Alameda, and they lead a pair of nonprofit groups. Aiesha Baldé has sat on the city’s Housing Commission and on an advisory committee for the Alameda Food Bank and has been active in Alameda’s public schools, and particularly in promoting students’ understanding of Muslim traditions.

Aiesha Baldé was also the lead plaintiff in an unsuccessful suit which sought to obtain an opt-out for parents who don’t want their children to participate in elementary school lessons aimed at curbing anti-gay bullying.

The Baldés did not return calls to their office and home seeking comment or an e-mail seeking comment, and Venegas could also not be reached for comment.

Aiesha Baldé told The Island during a 2009 interview that she was a paralegal and immigration consultant.

The case filing is below.


  • jahzebel says:

    If the Baldes are guilty of all the things outlined in this suit, they have done really, really bad stuff to these poor families and should be punished severely. Fines and restitution for the people who were deported and families who suffered as a result.

  • John says:

    Musa and Irene (Aiesha) Balde are listed as the owners of this business. Glenda Venegas is listed as an agent or employee. It would be logical to assume that the owners of the business would profit more from the activities of the business than the employee.

    From looking at the way this lawsuit is layed out, I would guess that the City Attorney is going to want Venegas to flip on the Baldes. Given the expense of defending against a suit like this, if I were Venegas, I would be getting a lawyer and trying to make a deal as quickly as possible to extricate myself from this suit. I think that is what Russo wants. If and when he gets Venegas' cooperation, the Baldes are going to be toast.

    Who knows. By the time all is said and done, and with cooperation from Venegas, there might be criminal charges as well.

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