Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey joined her counterparts in Virginia and New York Monday in suing an immigration services company accused of preying on immigrants held in federal detention centers.
The suit, which was filed jointly with the Consumer Federal Protection Bureau, claims Libre by Nexus misleads immigrants and conceals the costs of its bond payment services.
The complaint outlines a business model in which Libre allegedly targets civilly detained immigrants who are eligible for bond by charging expensive fees up front and subsequent monthly payments that are not credited toward the cost of bond.
Healey says her office knows of more than 200 former Libre customers in the state.
"We've heard complaints from across the state but in particular Bristol County, the south shore but also all the way out to the Pioneer Valley and across Boston," Healey said in an interview.
Healey described immigrants who received harassing text messages and were threatened with deportation if they missed payments to Libre.
Mike Donovan, president and CEO of Libre by Nexus, said in a statement that he categorically denies all allegations and looks forward to prevailing in court.
"Libre commits to continuing to service its amazing family of clients," he wrote in part.
The company falsely presents itself as being aligned with the federal government, specifically U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to the complaint.
The court filings explain a system in which Libre acts as an intermediary between the detained immigrants and bond agents.
"Libre requires detainees to execute an agreement with certain obligations and, in exchange, it agrees to indemnify the sureties and their bond agents for any losses in connection with the immigration bonds. The sureties then post and issue immigration bonds to ensure the detainee’s release," the complaint reads in part.
According to the filings, Libre will threaten to return an individual to detention if they refuse to execute the agreement already signed by their co-signer, who is often a family member or friend. After signing the agreement upon their release, the individual is then obligated to wear a GPS ankle monitor — a bond condition that is sometimes, but not always, imposed by ICE — and pay a monthly fee of $420 throughout the duration of their immigration proceedings, which can often take years.
Healey encouraged Massachusetts residents who have signed agreements with Libre to contact her office.
"Building a business ... by exploiting and preying on immigrants and their families; exploiting the confusion and fear that comes with the detention process; what Libre did, it's wrong, it's inhumane, and it's illegal," she said.