Authorities on Wednesday announced charges against a ring of federal officials who allegedly received bribes of cash and expensive gifts in exchange for fraudulent immigration benefits.
The scheme was allegedly orchestrated by Koreatown attorney Kwang Man Lee, formerly an agent with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, who charged clients up to $50,000 for the illegal immigration favors. Lee, who became an attorney in 1997, in turn bribed the officials with thousands of dollars in cash, vacations or electronics, according to prosecutors.
Four current and former federal officials with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection were indicted Tuesday on charges including conspiracy, bribery and misuse of government seals for their part in the scheme. Also indicted was a Japanese national who is accused of paying tens of thousands of dollars to Lee for a permanent resident card.
Lee was charged in a separate criminal complaint last month.
The officials allegedly doctored immigration files for Lee’s clients, or provided fake admission stamps showing people had left the country and returned as legally required when they had not. Authorities said at least several dozen people from all over the world including Morocco, South Korea, Japan and the Czech Republic, received the fraudulent benefits.
“It looks like this goes back at least 20 years,” Assistant U.S. Atty. Meghan Blanco said. “By and large, it involves people who entered the country legally and then overstayed their visa.”
Former USCIS Officer Paul Lovingood, 71, and ICE Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent James Dominguez, 46, surrendered to authorities Wednesday morning. USCIS Supervisory Officer Jesus Figueroa, 66; U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer Michael Anders, 53; 38-year-old Mirei Hofmann; and Lee had all previously been arrested and are free on bond.
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