[Stop-traffic] News/US: NY Lawyer indicted in alien smuggling case

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/US: NY Lawyer indicted in alien smuggling case
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Tue Nov 07 2000 - 09:48:32 EST

                    NY Lawyer indicted in alien smuggling case

RTw 9-20-00 10:47 PM
     By Gail Appleson, Law Correspondent
      NEW YORK, Sept 20 (Reuters) - A lawyer who runs the largest alien
asylum practice in the United States was indicted on Wednesday in an
unprecedented racketeering case involving the massive smuggling of illegal
Chinese aliens.
      Robert Porges, 61, who heads the New York-based Porges Law Firm; his
wife Sherry Lu, 47, who manages the firm and four of its paralegals and
support staff were named in the 44-count indictment that was unsealed in
Manhattan federal court. A separate indictment was also unsealed against
two former employees who now work at a different law firm.
      The case marks the first time that members of a law firm have been
charged under the federal racketeering laws for alien smuggling.
Prosecutors said 6,000 to 7,000 aliens had been smuggled into the United
States as part of the seven-year scheme that began in 1993.
      "The charges in these indictments are unprecedented in scope and
egregiousness," said Mary Jo White, Manhattan U.S. Attorney. "The
indictment charges that the Porges Firm greedily and cruelly exploited a
cherished American value -- asylum for the world's oppressed -- and
corrupted the system by which it is granted."
      The government is seeking forfeiture of $13.5 million that allegedly
represents the law firm's illegal profits. Among assets being sought are
the Porges' homes in Stamford, Conn. and Hollywood, Fla.
      The indictment charges that the law firm constituted a racketeering
enterprise that helped alien smugglers, called "snakeheads," in smuggling
aliens from the People's Republic of China into the United States.
      The indictment charges that the aliens, who could not lawfully enter
the United States, paid Chinese smugglers about $40,000 to $50,000 to get
them into this country. Typically a portion of the fee was paid by the
alien's relatives either in China or in the United States.
      If the full fee was not paid by the time the alien was smuggled into
the United States, the U.S. snakehead would hold the alien captive until
the balance was paid.
      The indictment charged that the Porges firm counselled snakeheads who
planned to smuggle groups of Chinese aliens into the United States. The
firm allegedly gave advice about what routes of entry to use or avoid to
make sure that if the aliens were caught by the Immigration and
Naturalisation Service, bail could be readily obtained.
      The law firm allegedly charged the snakeheads thousands of dollars in
fees for helping detained aliens make bail. The law firm allegedly prepared
and filed fraudulent documents in support of bail, including affidavits
purporting to be from relatives of the smuggled aliens.
      The indictment charged that in some instances the law firm allowed the
snakehead to pose as an alien's relative or used the same green card holder
to pose as a relative of multiple detained aliens. Law firm employees also
allegedly forged signatures of relatives on the papers.
      After aliens were released from INS custody, the firm allegedly
arranged for their travel and bought their airline tickets. The snakeheads
would then allegedly reimburse the firm. The firm gave the snakeheads the
flight arrival information so that they could allegedly kidnap the aliens
at the airport until they received payment of the outstanding smuggling
fees owed by the aliens' relatives.
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