A Santa Ana man and his partner admitted this week they paid nearly $200,000 to an Immigration and Naturalization Service official to obtain phony work permits for illegal immigrants, a federal prosecutor said Friday.
Jose Luis Terrones, 30, and Mohammad Aleem, 31, of Los Angeles pleaded guilty to two counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy stemming from what federal authorities called the largest bribery case of any Justice Department official prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office.
Terrones and Aleem, who were free on bond Friday, face a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Carol L. Gillam. The pair are scheduled for sentencing Nov. 30 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Gillam said.
A federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted the pair in April on charges they attempted to bribe a Santa Ana INS official to prepare fraudulent work permits for about 100 illegal immigrants, most from Pakistan, said Gillam, who is prosecuting the case. The Santa Ana INS official informed investigators after she was first approached in August, 1991, with bribe money and cooperated with the undercover investigation, prosecutors said.
Terrones and Aleem met with the INS official and a government agent posing as an INS Legalization Office employee several times from December, 1991, until March, when they were arrested, according to a federal indictment.
Most of Terrones' and Aleem's clients probably could not have qualified for work permits under the federal amnesty program because many were suspected of being illegal immigrants who could not prove they had lived in the United States since 1982, as the law requires, INS officials said.
Terrones and Aleem were originally indicted April 7 on nine felony counts each of bribery and conspiracy. Six counts will be dropped during sentencing in return for a guilty plea from the pair, Gillam and defense attorneys said.