Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Jury Convicts Immigration Attorney of Taking Bribes
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A senior attorney with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was found guilty yesterday of three dozen corruption-related charges for taking a series of bribes from immigrants who were seeking documentation to remain in the United States.
ICE Assistant Chief Counsel Constantine Peter Kallas, 39, of Alta Loma, was convicted by a federal jury following a three-week trial.
The jury found Kallas guilty of conspiracy, six counts of bribery, two counts of obstruction of justice, seven counts of fraud and misuse of entry documents, three counts of aggravated identity theft, nine counts of making false statements to the Department of Labor, four counts of making false statements to obtain federal employee compensation, and four counts of tax evasion.
“Mr. Kallas was a corrupt government official who abused his position of trust to line his own pockets,” U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. of the Central District of California said. “This case should serve as a warning to any public official who might consider trading a quick buck for illegal acts that making this trade could send them to prison.”
Kallas has been in a federal jail since August 2008, about two months after he was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation at the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino in Highland, where he and his wife, Maria, allegedly accepted a bribe from an immigrant. The June 2008 bribe was said to be the last in a series of incidents in which Kallas and his wife told illegal aliens that Kallas was an immigration official and could obtain immigration benefits in exchange for bribes of up to $20,000.
Kallas took a $7,000 bribe from his housekeeper in return for using his official position to dismiss removal proceedings against the housekeeper’s daughter, and he and his wife took bribes from four other illegal aliens in return for using two companies they had set up to file Permanent Employment Certification applications with the Department of Labor falsely claiming the companies had offered the aliens employment, prosecutors said.
According to court documents, the couple’s bank records show that, beyond Kallas’ salary, approximately $950,000 had been deposited in the couple’s bank accounts since 2000. When investigators searched the Kallas residence in June 2008, they discovered a hidden floor safe with more than $177,000 in cash and two dozen official immigration files.
As a result of yesterday’s convictions, Kallas faces a statutory maximum sentence of 256 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 9 before Senior U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr.
“This verdict serves as a sobering warning about the consequences of violating the public’s trust,” Paul Layman, assistant special agent in charge for the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility in Los Angeles, said. “ICE played a pivotal role in the investigation that led to these criminal charges and we will continue to hold our employees to the highest standards of professional conduct. Guarding against illegal or unethical behavior is not an option; it is an obligation we have to the people we serve.”
Maria Kallas, 41, also of Alta Loma, pled guilty to conspiracy, bribery and conspiracy to commit money laundering on Nov. 16. Hatter is scheduled to sentence her in June.
Constantine Kallas’ attorney, H. Dean Steward of San Clemente, noted that his client’s family had been supportive throughout trial and called it “a tragic day for the whole family,” including Kallas’ three brothers, who are also professionals. One of the brothers is an attorney, Steward said, while the others are doctors.
Steward told the METNEWS that he has filed a motion for a new trial which he expects will be heard at sentencing, and he said his client would most likely appeal if Hatter denies the motion.
Kallas joined ICE’s predecessor agency in June 1998, but he has been on unpaid leave since January 2007, a spokesperson for prosecutors said.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company