Prominent New York immigration lawyer Robert Porges, who heads the Porges law firm, has admitted to conspiring with smugglers to bring thousands of illegal immigrants from China to the US.
During their trial for racketeering and tax evasion, Porges and his wife Sheery Lu Porges conceded that they assisted a criminal organisation that charged potential immigrants around $50,000 (£35,000) to sneak them into the country. Both said they faked asylum applications to ensure that immigrants would be able to remain in the US.
“I was aware that many of the stories by the aliens were false, inaccurate or exaggerations. I deliberately did not investigate”
Under examination, Porges said: “I was aware that many of the stories submitted by the aliens were either false, inaccurate or exaggerations. I deliberately did not investigate.”
Mrs Porges was a manager at the firm. She further admitted assisting in the recovery of outstanding monies owed to the smugglers by the immigrants. When questioned, she described how she would pass on address details for those clients that had still to pay their full $50,000. A number of these tip-offs led to immigrants being kidnapped until their debt was cleared.
The pair are understood to have netted at least $13m (£9.1m) from their criminal activities, and having both pleaded guilty to the charges against them could face up to eight years in prison. They will be sentenced on 17 May.
In addition to the Porges, a number of staff members at the firm have pleaded guilty to similar charges. Porges' lawyer Larry Bronson argued that his client had been singled out for what was in essence a common practice. He said: “It's a sad case because he's a lawyer, 63 years old, and he's going to jail for conduct which is conducted every day by people in this business.”
The case has led to a review of up to 7,000 asylum cases managed by the firm.