A deportation officer with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) surrendered this morning to special agents of ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility on charges of harboring his girlfriend, an undocumented resident, and making false statements about his ownership of a hair salon, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Arnaldo Echevarria, 37, of Somerset County, is charged by criminal complaint with one count of harboring an illegal alien and one count of making false statements. Echevarria is scheduled for an initial appearance and bail hearing this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven C. Mannion.
According to the criminal complaint unsealed today:
Echevarria was a deportation officer with ICE, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In December 2012, Echevarria received permission from his superiors at ICE to open a hair salon in West Orange. Echevarria certified to ICE that the hair salon would not conflict with ICE matters and would not involve illegals. However, Echevarria employed his girlfriend at the time, an undocumented resident, to manage the salon. Echevarria’s girlfriend had entered the United States illegally, using the name and identification of an individual in Puerto Rico to obtain a Pennsylvania identification card.
Echevarria allegedly knew his girlfriend and another salon employee resided in the United States illegally. Prior to opening the hair salon, Echevarria queried the name and date of birth of his girlfriend’s alias in various law enforcement databases. After opening the salon, Echevarria allegedly ensured that his girlfriend’s illegal status remained a secret by signing the lease for her apartment and by placing her cable and electric bills in his name. In addition to driving his girlfriend and other salon employees to and from the salon each day, Echevarria also paid the employees in cash and never asked them to fill out employment eligibility paperwork.
The charges of harboring an illegal alien and making false statements are each punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss from the offense.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of ICE, Office of Professional Responsibility, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Terence S. Opiola, with the investigation leading to today’s arrest.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Agarwal of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.