Leticia Avila, who allegedly used her LDS church membership to scam dozens of undocumented Hispanic immigrants, is apparently on the run.---
I broke the story about Avila, 47, in a piece called Money for Nothing on May 6, 2009. She allegedly used her LDS temple recommend to convince desperate ward members at a number of LDS branches to give her thousands of dollars in exchange for empty promises of legalisation. A group of victims reported her to the state, only to eventually be deported for their troubles.
Avila, who victims said claimed divine intervention led her to a mysterous immigration official keen to legalize undocumented immigrants, was sued by both the Utah State Bar and the Utah Attorney General. The former is seeking an injunction against her unauthorized practice of law, while the latter filed four felony charges of communications fraud and one for pattern of unlawful activity against her in early March 2010.
A $100,000 warrant was issued for Avila by 3rd District Judge Tyrone E. Medley March 4.
At a scheduling conference for the Utah State Bar's case in Judge Paul Maughan's 3rd District Court on May 4, Avila's attorney, according to the court docket, withdrew. His client was nowhere to be seen.
Attorney Gregory Sanders, who is representing the Utah State Bar, says his office received a letter from Avila in March advising them she was going to Ecuador - her country of birth - for a few weeks and would be in touch on her return. That was the last anyone's heard of her. Sanders says, however, that her house was sold in March.
Sanders took her deposition. He describes her as "the true consummate con-woman. I didn't believe a word she said. She denied everything." Among her denials in court were information she had given me during our interview.
"Why would the reporter make it up?" Sanders asked.
"You know the media," she replied.
The state bar is seeking restitution of $27,000 on behalf of her victims. The original complaint listed 17 victims - now Sanders says he has knowledge of 40. Her bank records, however, Sanders says, revealed no trace of the money she allegedly conned out of her victims.
A bench trial on the Utah State Bar case is set for May 25. If Avila doesn't turn up, then Sanders will present an abbrievated version of his case to Judge Maughan for his ruling. If she does turn up, however, then a date will be set for trial. Sanders doesn't expect Avila to show up.