A federal grand jury today indicted a Somerset man for allegedly accepting cash bribes and sex in exchange for providing
employment authorization documents and for concealing his employment of an undocumented immigrant at a hair salon he owned, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Arnaldo Echevarria, 38, a former deportation officer with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is charged by indictment with seven counts of accepting bribes, one count of harboring an undocumented immigrant and one count of making false statements to immigration authorities. Echevarria will be arraigned in federal court on a date to be determined.
According to the documents filed in this case:
As a deportation officer, Echevarria enforced immigration and customs laws by identifying, locating, arresting and removing undocumented immigrants from the United States and by supervising certain undocumented immigrants who had not yet been deported.
Undocumented immigrants subject to a deportation order often were able to obtain employment authorization documents which allowed them to legally work in the United States for a one-year period and which could be renewed annually. Between 2012 and 2014, Echevarria agreed to obtain employment authorization documents for approximately seven undocumented immigrants who were not lawfully present in the country.
In return, the feds said Echevarria demanded and received approximately $78,000 in cash bribes. In order to conceal them from immigration authorities, Echevarria falsely stated that they had been granted temporary protected status, which allows nationals from certain countries experiencing environmental disaster, ongoing armed conflict, or other extraordinary conditions to lawfully remain in the United States. None of the individuals who bribed Echevarria had actually applied for, or received, temporary protected status.
In addition to the cash bribes, Echevarria also allegedly demanded and received sex from two of the individuals, one of whom became pregnant with Echevarria’s child. Despite Echevarria encouraging her to have an abortion, the woman delivered the child, and Echevarria told her that no one could find out that he was the child’s father.
Afterwards, Echevarria continued to have sex with this individual in exchange for his help with her employment authorization documents. In December 2012, Echevarria received permission from his superiors at ICE to open a hair salon in West Orange, New Jersey. Echevarria certified to ICE that the hair salon would not conflict with ICE matters and would not involve undocumented workers.
However, Echevarria employed his girlfriend at the time, an undocumented immigrant, 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 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 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 seven bribery counts each carry a maximum potential penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, or three times the monetary equivalent of the things of value accepted by the defendant.
The charges of harboring and making false statements are each punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss arising from the offense.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of ICE, Office of Professional Responsibility, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge John McCabe, with the investigation leading to today’s indictment. 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 indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.