June 30, 2008

ICE attorney arrested for alleged immigrant bribes


LOS ANGELES (AP) — An attorney for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and his wife were arrested on suspicion of accepting thousands of dollars from both legal and illegal immigrants in exchange for immigration benefits, authorities said.

ICE Assistant Chief Counsel Constantine Peter Kallas, 38, and wife Maria Kallas, 39, both of Alta Loma, were arrested Thursday at the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino, where authorities believed they were accepting such a bribe, U.S. Attorney spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a statement.

A search warrant affidavit said the couple, using a pair of companies they had set up, filed false employment petitions with federal authorities for 45 illegal immigrants and two legal permanent residents.

"The egregious acts of corruption alleged in this case are extremely disturbing to those of us who have sworn to serve the United States," U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien said in a written statement. "As a law enforcement official, Mr. Kallas abused his position in the Department of Homeland Security simply to line his own pockets."

The search warrant affidavit said about $950,000 beyond Constantine Kallas' salary had been deposited in the pair's bank accounts since 2000.

The couple was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy, bribery, making false statements and making a false statement in an immigration application.

Attempts to reach an attorney for the couple early Friday morning were unsuccessful.

They were expected to make their first court appearance in a U.S. District Court in Santa Ana on Friday.

Kallas has worked for ICE since 1998, but had been on unpaid leave since January, 2007.

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