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Document and Benefit Fraud
04/08/2009

Immigration lawyer, wife found guilty of asylum fraud

Couple face up to 5 years in federal prison

NEW YORK - A Jersey City, N.J., couple were both found guilty on Friday of one count of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud. A week-long jury trial, which ended April 3, resulted from a joint investigation between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the FBI. James Christo, 44, and Remila Christo, 35, each face a maximum of five years in federal prison.

According to court documents, James Christo, assisted by his wife, operated a law firm in Manhattan that, among other things, helped aliens from Albania with political asylum applications.

In April and May 2004, the Christos worked together to help a client create and document a fake story of persecution in support of an asylum application. In fact, the client was an undercover FBI agent posing as an Albanian immigrant.

ICE targets criminals engaged in immigration fraud because it poses a severe threat to national security and public safety by creating vulnerabilities that may enable terrorists, criminals and illegal aliens to gain entry to and remain in the United States.

U.S. Attorney Lev L. Dassin, Southern District of New York, praised ICE and the FBI for their investigative work in this case.

James Christo was found not guilty on a second count of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud.

Sentencing for the Christos is scheduled for July 17.