AG Herring Files Suit Against Immigration Bond Company
Attorney General Mark Herring filed a federal lawsuit today against the immigration bail bond company Libre by Nexus, alleging they are taking advantage of vulnerable people accused of entering the country illegally.
The attorneys general of Massachusetts and New York are also part of the lawsuit, along with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They accuse Libre of marketing its immigration bond “securitization” services while misrepresenting the true cost of its services. Officials allege Libre charged excessive upfront payments and fees to get immigrants out of federal detention. Immigrants were attached with an ankle monitor while awaiting a court date and charged thousands of dollars for the service that never went toward the actual bond amount.
In a press call, Herring accused Libre of exploiting people who feel like “their journey to freedom has come to an end.”
“Libre by Nexus has made a business out of preying on the vulnerabilities of terrified immigrants who pose no threat and only want to see their families again, and fear deportation if they were to stay in federal custody,” Herring said.
Libre by Nexus CEO Mike Donovan issued a written statement following the press conference denying all allegations. He said the company is committed to fighting for immigrants “scarred by the torture of ‘civil’ immigration detention.”
“While we have fought to release tens of thousands of immigrants from detention, especially during the last four years, the AGs have taken time and money to investigate our company,” Donovan said.
Thousands of people each year are granted bond while their immigration case moves through the legal system, a process that can take years. Unlike most U.S. criminal courts though, immigrants accused of entering the country illegally must pay the entire bond upfront.
The average bond amount is more than $7,500, according to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy. Many bail bond companies refuse to work with immigrant detainees because they are seen as riskier and cases take too long to conclude.
An investigation by the Washington Post found Libre charges immigrants an additional $420 non-refundable, monthly fee for GPS monitoring that assures the person will appear in court. None of that money goes toward the principal amount of the bond, and the Washington Post found the contracts immigrants were asked to sign were solely in English.
Dave Uejio, the CFPB’s acting director, called Libre’s business model a “cash-grab scheme.”
“Libre leads consumers to believe their monthly payments pay down a debt they owe to Libre for paying their bond when, in fact, the payments are exorbitant, non-refundable fees,” Uejio said. “Libre is actually just a middle man between immigrants detainees and the bondsmen.”
In December, Virginia’s State Corporation Commission fined Libre more than $400,000 and placed restrictions on the company’s operations in the state as part of a separate investigation by the Bureau of Insurance. Libre currently has three offices in Virginia, according to its website, one in Arlington, Harrisonburg and Verona.
The lawsuit filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for Western Virginia seeks restitution for immigrants who used Libre’s service and civil penalties for the company.
A copy of that court complaint can be found here.