The $17 million state lawsuit filed against Hermandad Mexicana Nacional comes at a time when the immigrants- rights group finds itself in transition.
The organization’s national director, Bert Corona, died earlier this year. His widow, Angelina, has taken over the helm, although she and Nativo Lopez, who heads the Santa Ana office, differ over responsibilities. In addition, the Santa Ana building that houses Hermandad is up for sale. But Lopez said the lawsuit came as no surprise and that he is prepared to fight the allegations, which name him as a defendant. He said the state is looking for a scapegoat now that Corona is gone and because the state is under federal investigation for how it distributed the grants.
They’re grabbing at who they believe to be the next best person,” Lopez said.
Angelina Corona said Tuesday that she isn’t in charge of the Los Angeles legal center named in the lawsuit but rather another branch of Hermandad. She referred questions to Lopez.
I’m not legally responsible,” she said. As far as I know, nobody did anything wrong. As far as I know, this money was properly spent.”
But Lopez, a member of the Santa Ana school board, said he isn’t a part of the legal center.
State officials consider the branches to be part of one organization, but named each in the suit.
As for assets, Lopez said Hermandad does not have $17 million to pay the state. For one thing, Hermandad sold its Santa Ana office building at 825 N. Broadway in 1998 to Citizens in Action, a nonprofit housing group formerly run by Amin David of Los Amigos of Anaheim.
Lopez said Hermandad sold the property because the group was near bankruptcy after allegations of voter fraud brought by former Rep. Robert Dornan.
That building is being sold again. Developer Michael Harrah is purchasing the building from Citizens in Action, said broker Gil Marrero. Marrero said Hermandad would be able to continue to rent space in the building.
Register staff writers John Howard and Maria Sacchetti contributed to this report.
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