LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – MICHAEL J. GARCIA, United States Attorney for the
Southern District of New York, announced that JIMMIE ORTEGA, 54,
a former Supervisory District Adjudications Officer with the
naturalization unit of the United States Citizenship &
Immigration Services (“CIS”) in New York City pleaded guilty
today in Manhattan federal court to taking tens of thousands of
dollars in bribes in exchange for granting United States
citizenship to ineligible aliens. According to the Indictment,
statements made during ORTEGA’s guilty plea before United States
District Judge JOHN F. KEENAN, and other documents publicly filed
in this case:
From October 2004 to April 2006, ORTEGA accepted bribes
from aliens who were seeking United States Citizenship and, in
exchange, used his position with CIS to obtain for the aliens the
approvals they needed to obtain citizenship. ORTEGA, working
with one or more other CIS employees, arranged to approve aliens’
citizenship applications without the aliens meeting necessary
requirements, including the requirements that they (i) appear at
CIS’s office in New York for an interview with a CIS
adjudications officer, (ii) demonstrate proficiency in the
English language during such interview, and (iii) pass the
required civics and United States history examination during such
ORTEGA solicited and received bribes from each alien of
between $1,500 and $4,000 in exchange for arranging for the
alien’s naturalization. ORTEGA solicited bribes from at least 20
aliens in connection with the scheme. ORTEGA retired from his
position at CIS in April 2006.
ORTEGA was arrested in connection with these charges on
October 26, 2006. He pleaded guilty today to one count of
conspiracy, one count of soliciting bribes, and one count of
procuring or attempting to procure naturalization unlawfully.
During his guilty plea, ORTEGA admitted, “I accepted bribes from
applicants seeking citizenship that could not speak, read or
understand sufficient English to pass the English proficiency and
United States history requirements. […] As a result of my
conduct, many applicants were approved for citizenship that were
ORTEGA faces a total maximum sentence of 30 years’
imprisonment, and a maximum fine on each count of the greater of
$250,000, or twice the gross gain or gross loss from the offense.
ORTEGA is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge KEENAN on October
24, 2007 in Manhattan federal court.
Five of ORTEGA’s ten co-defendants — ANDREA PEGUERO
SANTILLANA, BLAS ISRAEL DIAZ, JOSE LORA, BILERCA SANTANA, and
JOSE ALMONTE each pleaded guilty to a charge of unlawfully
procuring naturalization, and are awaiting sentencing. The cases
against OSCAR FABREGAS, RAFAELINA PICHARDO, DIAULICIA CABA,
JAMLET GARCIA, and ALBERTO COLON are pending. DIAULICIA CABA is
still at large.
Mr. GARCIA thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation
and the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General’s
Office for their efforts in the investigation.
“United States citizenship should be earned, not
bought,” said MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for
the Southern District of New York. “Corruption among immigration
officials endangers our security, subverts the system, and is
unfair to deserving immigrants who play by the rules.”
This case is being handled by the Office’s Public
Corruption Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys CHRISTINE Y.
WONG and MARCUS A. ASNER are in charge of the prosecution.