ATLANTA — Three men, two from Atlanta and one from New York, appeared in federal court Thursday on charges that they conspired to bribe a federal immigration official in return for assistance with their immigration status, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).
A federal grand jury indicted Hakeem Omar, 30, Ibrahim Barrie, 31, and Samuel Bolay, 24, Aug. 21 for conspiracy and bribery, and OPR special agents arrested all three men Sept. 5.
"These defendants are charged with attempting to circumvent the immigration process by offering bribes to a federal agent," said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. "The integrity of our immigration process has important implications for the security of our communities, and this case shows that we will take efforts to subvert this process seriously."
"The ICE Office of Professional Responsibility considers bribery of our employees an extremely serious offense, as these actions can potentially undermine the security of our nation. We swiftly investigate all bribery attempts and take appropriate enforcement action when warranted," said David P. D'Amato, special agent in charge of OPR for the Southeast Region.
According to information presented in court: Beginning in September 2010, and continuing until at least July, Omar, Barrie and Bolay paid bribes to an OPR special agent who was working in an undercover capacity, in exchange for immigration and other benefits. Over a two-year period, the defendants paid thousands of dollars to the undercover special agent for what they believed was assistance with their immigration status in the United States, including naturalization assistance and obtaining a permanent resident card, commonly known as a green card.
The indictment charges Omar, Barrie and Bolay with conspiracy to commit bribery, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a maximum fine of $250,000. In addition, each defendant is charged with separate bribery counts related to each bribe paid by him, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 15 years and a maximum fine of $250,000, or three times the equivalent of their bribes, whichever is greater. Lastly, defendant Omar, a naturalized citizen, also faces a charge of naturalization fraud, for which he faces 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. If convicted, all defendants likely face removal from the United States. In determining the actual sentence, the court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government's burden to prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.