Los Angeles News

Serial plaintiff Alfredo Garcia arrested over immigration status

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An illegal immigrant and convicted felon who has filed hundreds of lawsuits against small businesses over disability violations has been arrested.

Alfredo Garcia was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and is awaiting a hearing with an immigration judge to determine if he has a legal right to remain in the U.S.

Garcia, 41, is a paraplegic and four-time convicted felon. He has been making a living filing lawsuits against Southern California businesses.

Garcia's rash of lawsuits continued up until his arrest. He has filed 24 new lawsuits since Eyewitness News' story came out last year.

"I think it's an extraordinary abuse of the law. The law has a good purpose, and its abuse is outrageous," said attorney Gail Cooper-Folb, who represents dozens of businesses, including Yogurt Stop in West Hollywood, one of Garcia's latest targets.

The lawsuit against Yogurt Stop seeks $5,000 in damages. A coat hook and the height of the mirror in the bathroom of the shop are two alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"The city of West Hollywood has very strict guidelines when it comes to ADA," said Yogurt Stop owner Misti Cooper. "We followed it to the T. Everything in here is done perfectly, until we get to the hook in the bathroom, which seems ludicrous."

Garcia has been called a professional plaintiff, with more than 500 lawsuits and $165,000 in settlements. But his career filing cases may be over now that he's been arrested. Garcia's attorney Morse Mehrban said he didn't know his client's immigration status.

"If the business community had begun complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act...enacted decades ago, they would not be facing legal action from members of the disabled community today," Mehrban said in a statement.

Cooper-Folb said the fight isn't about equal access, it's about money.

"They are in it to threaten business owners with, 'If you fight, you're going to spend more on an attorney then you are if you just pay us, so just pay us.' And most people do it," said Cooper-Folb.

The owners of Yogurt Stop are some of the few who plan on fighting the lawsuit.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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