In 2006 Jose Alvarado promised Cesar Gamboa, Ruben Nava, and Mauro Lopez, who were unlawfully in this country, that for $15,000 apiece, he could get them United States citizenship papers. Alvarado promised that he could deliver “authentic citizenship documents” for them through a contact at the US Consulate office in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. He told them that he had contacts that could influence the immigration authorities to expedite the application process but would need to pay employees in the different departments to obtain the necessary releases. Alvarado stated that he and his brother were obtaining their citizenship documents through the contact and invited Gamboa, Nava, and Lopez to join the group. The latter agreed and began paying in installments to Alvarado. Alvarado issued them receipts for the payments through his business, Marco’s Digital Video and Photography, Inc., to prove that the payments were legitimate. They say that Alvarado used “high-pressure tactics” to get the payments, calling them weekly until they had paid in full.
Once he received the money, however, Alvarado became less communicative. He did not deliver the promised “authentic citizenship documents” but delivered various excuses. In March 2009, he told the group that they were all swindled by the Mexican contact. Alvarado asked the group to contribute additional $200 each to hire a Mexican lawyer to pursue restitution from the swindler in Mexico. These additional payments did not fare any better than the first payments. Soon Alvarado informed the group that the legal challenge was not an option but proposed a new strategy. The new plan was to hire thugs in Mexico to kidnap the swindler and to get their money back. If the swindler would not return the money, the thugs would kill him. However, in October 2009, Alvarado told the group that the kidnapping plan was also on hold.
The thug-and-kidnapping plan having failed, Gamboa, Nava, and Lopez decided to try their luck with the Circuit Court of Cook County. They filed a lawsuit against Alvarado and his business for fraud, unjust enrichment, civil conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. The trial court dismissed the complaint, finding that the contract between the plaintiffs and the defendants were illegal and could not be enforced by the court. The plaintiffs appealed. The appellate court reversed.