An immigration attorney and restaurateur from Hartford, Conn. was sentenced this week to one year in Federal prison for knowingly falsifying and filing paperwork for a woman in Poland to begin the citizenship process without her knowledge or consent, the Hartford Courant reports. Jose del Castillo had pled guilty earlier this year to one count of federal document fraud after having been indicted in late 2006 on 23 counts of falsely filing immigration forms with state and Federal officials. The case against del Castillo goes back to early 2001, when he allegedly falsified documents in an attempt to qualify his clients for a defacto amnesty that passed Congress in December of 2000. The so-called Section 245(i) amnesty gave illegal aliens with an employer or family sponsor an opportunity to file for a green card, and possibly achieve citizenship, if they paid a $1,000 penalty. Shortly after del Castillo opened a restaurant in 2001, he filed almost 100 Section 245(i) applications for his illegal-alien clients that claimed they were in his employ. When the Section 245(i) amnesty originally passed in 1994, it had a term of about three years. However, because Congress extended the amnesty three times, it did not expire until January 1998. These amnesties placed over 500,000 illegal aliens on the citizenship track. In 2000, when Congress reinstated the amnesty for the first four months of 2001, 900,000 illegal aliens benefitted. No one knows how many of these applications involved fraud similar to that perpetrated by del Castillo. The prosecuting U.S. Attorney in the del Castillo case, Nora R. Dannehy, was quoted as saying “A felony conviction and a term of imprisonment send a strong message that document fraud committed by an officer of the court is an egregious offense that cannot be tolerated.” In addition to jail time, the judge fined del Castillo $15,000 and sentenced him to two years of supervised release. He had already been reprimanded by the state bar association twice for misconduct and may now face disbarment. A naturalized citizen who was born in Peru, del Castillo once served as the head of the Hartford Redevelopment Agency.
Updated: Fri, Sep 12th 2008 @ 4:54pm EDT