Arnaldo Echevarria, 38, a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer, was convicted on Thursday of accepting bribes and cash from illegal immigrants. The Somerset, New Jersey, resident was found guilty of making false statements, harboring a person living in the U.S. illegally, and bribery while employed by ICE from 2012 to 2014.
Echevarria was paid at least $75,000 in bribes from immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. In exchange, he provided them with employment authorization documents, protection, or help concealing their immigration status.
He also forced multiple immigrants to have sex with him, one of whom got pregnant. Echevarria encouraged the woman to have an abortion, but the child was conceived. Still, he continued to demand sex from this immigrant afterward.
The New Jersey Department of Justice says he also made several false statements to the immigrants from whom he accepted bribes. Echevarria falsely stated that the bribes he was paid granted the illegal immigrants temporary protected status, a designation meant to allow people fleeing natural disasters, manmade or otherwise, armed conflicts, or other extraordinary circumstances, the ability to stay in the U.S.
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This is not Arnaldo Echevarria's first conviction.
Echevarria was also convicted of covering up and lying to ICE and immigration officials about his girlfriend's immigration status, employing her illegally at a hair salon he owned, and paying her and other employees in cash to avoid paperwork.
He also allegedly set up the job for his girlfriend using an alias. According to the New Jersey Department of Justice, Echevarria's girlfriend used the name and ID of an individual from Puerto Rico to get a Pennsylvanian ID.
ICE gave him permission to open the West Orange salon after he was able to ensure that there wouldn't be a conflict of interest between his owning the salon and working at ICE. He also had to ensure that he would only employ people in the country legally. Echevarria was charged with letting his girlfriend, a known illegal immigrant, manage the shop.
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When Echevarria was first indicted, his lawyer Michael Korbanics declined to comment on anything specifically. He simply stated, "We're ready to establish a vigorous defense of the allegations."
Thursday, that defense didn't hold up in court. Echevarria will be sentenced on June 19. He faces up to 15 years in prison and additional fines. His attorney will likely appeal.