Trials

Ex-immigration agent convicted of accepting cash bribes, sex

 (Reuters)

A former Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer has been convicted of accepting cash bribes and sex from immigrants in the U.S. without legal permission in exchange for employment authorization documents.

Arnaldo Echevarria, of Somerset, New Jersey, was found guilty Thursday of bribery, making false statements and harboring a person living in the U.S. illegally. Attorney Michael Koribanics said an appeal is likely.

Echevarria received $75,000 in bribes from immigrants not in the U.S. legally in exchange for employment authorization documents from 2012 to 2014, prosecutors said, and in one instance he demanded and received sex.

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He also was convicted of concealing his girlfriend's immigration status and employing her in his hair salon while lying to ICE officials. Echevarria paid his girlfriend and other employees in cash to avoid paperwork, prosecutors said.

He was given permission by ICE in December 2012 to open a hair salon in West Orange after he certified that the salon wouldn't conflict with his job and that he wouldn't employ people who were in the country without legal permission. But prosecutors say he had his girlfriend, who he knew was in the country illegally, manage the shop.

Echevarria faces up to 15 years in prison and fines when he's sentenced June 19.

Prosecutors say he falsely stated that the people who paid him had been granted temporary protected status, which is meant to allow people from countries experiencing environmental disaster, armed conflict or other extraordinary conditions to stay in the United States.