Four Charged in Green Cards Scheme
WASHINGTON (AP) _ An alleged attempt to use bribery to obtain illegal green cards for 101 Koreans led Thursday to a 19-count indictment against a federal law enforcement officer, a lawyer and two immigration brokers.
The indictment accuses Jimee Choi, 32, of the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and attorney Brian Im, 36, of Vienna, Va., of paying $82,100 in bribes to a senior immigration official for the documents to allow the Koreans to stay in the United States.
Im collected at least $350,000 from the aliens’ 35 families for the green cards, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Helen Fahey of the Eastern District of Virginia, where the indictment was returned.
ATF agent Choi was alleged to have received more than $35,000 for his part, which included conveying the bribe from Im to an Immigration and Naturalization Service official, providing security for the operation and helping to process Im’s clients.
``We view any attempt to pervert the lawful immigration process in this or any similar way as unacceptable,″ said Michael Bromwich, the Justice Department’s inspector general. ``We are committed to the vigorous investigation and prosecution of allegations, particularly when they involve public officials who have violated their oath and breached their public trust.″
At a court appearance Thursday before U.S. District Judge Theresa Buchanan in suburban Alexandria, Va., the four defendants were advised of the charges and a detention hearing was set for Friday. They will be in custody pending that hearing. The arraignment is scheduled for March 23.
The person who received the bribes _ James Goldman, the INS’ Washington district office’s assistant director for investigations _ posed as a corrupt official to carry out a sting operation, the indictment said.
It said Choi introduced Im to Goldman last June 13, and Im asked if the INS official could help one of his Korean clients immigrate. Goldman decided that Im planned to bribe him and tipped off Bromwich’s office, which launched a joint undercover investigation with INS investigators.
Also charged were two immigration brokers _ David Lim, 58, of Fairfax, Va., and David Choi, 33, of the Flushing section of New York City.
The sting led to the four suspects’ arrest Tuesday night when they arrived with clients to get immigration documents from Goldman in exchange for the bribes, Bromwich said.
The indictment’s 19 counts involve one count of conspiracy, 10 of bribery and eight of immigration fraud. The immigration brokers are charged only with conspiracy.
Maximum penalties are five years in prison for conspiracy, 15 years on each bribery charge and 10 years on each immigration fraud charge, plus fines of $250,000 for each count. In addition, the government seeks forfeiture of about $700,000 in cash and two cars from the four defendants, Bromwich said.
What does Goldman get for stopping the alleged fraud? ``He gets our thanks,″ Bromwich said.