Consulate of Mexico employees fired, accused of taking money for priority appointments

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Officials at the Consulate of Mexico are now confirming to Action News employees have been fired for wrongfully charging people for highly sought-after appointments at the Fresno office.

The scheme involved the security guard and two workers taking money from people for simply being allowed entry into the building. Mexican Consulate officials are urging any victims of the money scam to come forward.

The Mexican federal government is now cracking down on what's become a trend among its consulate offices -- the sale of what are actually free appointments.

Adriana Gonzlaez with the Mexican Consulate in Fresno says the activity was first discovered when a member of the community complained that the security guard for the building in north Fresno was charging to let them inside the building.

Officials say surveillance camera footage confirmed the scheme to be true. The security guard was collecting money from people who wanted to be seen inside the consulate immediately, then worked with two employees inside to get them seen next.

Gonzalez says in early August, the security guard from a third-party company was removed. On August 15, after the investigation was reviewed by the Mexican government, the two employees involved were fired. One of those employees was in America on a work
visa and has now been forced to return to Mexico.

Any criminal charges filed will be on behalf of the Mexican government but are yet to be determined. Officials say they are meeting with attorneys this week to find out if charges or restitution can be sought locally.

"People taking advantage of the situation, taking advantage of people that are just not really informed and unable to get another appointment quickly," said Fresno immigration lawyer Joshua Longoria.

There are only 51 Mexican consulate offices in the U.S.

Longoria says he has seen clients travel from out of state for an appointment. Mexican officials say they have been conducting a record number of services across their North America consulate offices.

The appointment management service has been taking over 25,000 calls a day. The consulate is reminding people to report anyone who tries to charge you ahead of even walking into the building. Appointments are free.

If you have a deadline, court date, or other urgent matter on your hands, Longoria suggests you bring proof or documentation of that straight to the consulate to see if they can work with you to expedite your request.

"Usually I just tell them to show up the day of, really early, first thing and explain the situation," he said. "Sometimes, they will make exceptions and produce those documents quicker for them."
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