The State

A Santa Ana couple whose amnesty applications languished after $5,000 in processing fees disappeared from a local immigration office got some help--and an apology--from the agency's top regional official. "I want to apologize for the wrong thing that our people did for taking the money," Harold Ezell, regional commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, told Jose Luis Garcia, his wife Sonia and their two daughters. "They don't work for us anymore. They're gone." The Garcias' check for $420, which they submitted along with their applications last October, was one of several that were stolen or diverted to cover other stolen checks in what Ezell called a "Ponzi scheme." The INS and the U.S. attorney's office have been investigating the disappearance and have identified a former INS employee as the prime suspect. At least 35 amnesty applications had been held up because of the thefts and ongoing investigation.

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