NEWARK, N.J. – A Somerset, New Jersey, man was sentenced today to 84 months in prison for accepting cash bribes and sex in exchange for providing employment authorization documents and concealing his employment of an undocumented immigrant at a hair salon he owned, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.
Arnaldo Echevarria, 40, a former deportation officer with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), was previously convicted of Counts 1-6 and Counts 8 and 9 of an indictment charging him with seven counts of accepting bribes, one count of harboring an undocumented immigrant and one count of making false statements to immigration authorities. He was acquitted on Count 7, one of the bribery counts. Echevarria was convicted following a one-week trial before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, who imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.
According to statements made in court and evidence presented at trial:
As a deportation officer, Echevarria enforced immigration and customs laws by identifying, locating, arresting and removing undocumented immigrants from the United States and by supervising certain undocumented immigrants who had not yet been deported. Undocumented immigrants subject to a deportation order often were able to obtain employment authorization documents which allowed them to legally work in the United States for a one-year period and which could be renewed annually.
Between 2012 and 2014, Echevarria agreed to obtain employment authorization documents for undocumented immigrants who were not lawfully present in the country. In return, Echevarria demanded and received approximately $75,000 in cash bribes, and demanded and received sex from one individual. In order to conceal them from immigration authorities, Echevarria falsely stated that they had been granted temporary protected status, which allows nationals from certain countries experiencing environmental disaster, ongoing armed conflict, or other extraordinary conditions to lawfully remain in the United States. None of the individuals who bribed Echevarria had actually applied for, or received, temporary protected status.
In December 2012, Echevarria received permission from his superiors at ICE to open a hair salon in West Orange, New Jersey. Echevarria certified to ICE that the hair salon would not conflict with ICE matters and would not involve undocumented workers. However, Echevarria employed his girlfriend at the time, an undocumented immigrant, to manage the salon. Echevarria’s girlfriend had entered the United States illegally, using the name and identification of an individual in Puerto Rico to obtain a Pennsylvania identification card.
Echevarria knew his girlfriend resided in the United States illegally. Prior to opening the hair salon, Echevarria queried the name and date of birth of his girlfriend’s alias in various law enforcement databases. After opening the salon, Echevarria ensured that his girlfriend’s illegal status remained a secret by signing the lease for her apartment and by placing her cable and electric bills in his name. In addition to driving his girlfriend and other employees to and from the salon each day, Echevarria also paid the employees in cash and never asked them to fill out employment eligibility paperwork.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Salas sentenced Echevarria to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay forfeiture of $75,000.