Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Detroit immigration official charged with bribery

A top immigration official in Detroit has been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to release aliens who were facing deportation -- including two registered sex offenders -- and facilitating other immigration frauds.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Paul Egan / The Detroit News
Two well-known Dearborn restaurant owners -- Talal Chahine of LaShish Restaurants and Samir Leon of Leon's Family Dining -- are also involved in the corruption scandal. Chahine, a fugitive, is charged in the indictment. Leon is not charged but is identified in the indictment as restaurant owner "Samir L.," who allegedly paid bribes to the immigration official.
Roy M. Bailey, 54, of Romulus, who was assistant director for the Immigration and Naturalization Service field office in Detroit and director for detention and removal operations, is charged with accepting bribes, conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit extortion by a public official, conspiracy to defraud the federal government and failing to report a felony.
"Our office considers this to be an outright selling of one's office," said U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy. "These sorts of corruption matters are among the most serious that we take."
Bailey, who is expected to voluntarily surrender to federal authorities in the next few days, has been on paid administrative leave since February, 2005, an official said. His most recent title, after INS was rolled into the Department of Homeland Security, was acting field office director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Detroit.
"Mr. Bailey is innocent of all the charges in the indictment and he will be pleading not guilty at the first opportunity," said Michael Starr, Bailey's Washington, D.C. attorney.
"He will fight to be cleared of these charges and to restore his stellar reputation."
Two of the people Bailey is accused of illegally releasing from federal custody appear on the Michigan State Police Sex Offender Registry.
Antonio "Tony" Ivezaj, 39, of Milford, who is also charged in the indictment, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1993 after an Oakland County jury convicted him of third-degree sexual conduct. Ivezaj was released from state prison in 1998, records show. According to the indictment, Ivezaj paid Bailey more than $5,000 in bribes between 1999 and 2003 and Bailey released Ivezaj from custody while he was awaiting deportation.
Ivezaj was arraigned in federal court today on bribery and conspiracy charges and held pending a detention hearing Thursday. He is represented by the Federal Defender Office and his attorney declined comment.
Another man Bailey allegedly released from federal custody in return for a bribe, Salim Kriko, 68, of West Bloomfield, has a conviction for second-degree sexual conduct, according to the state Sex Offender Registry. Kriko, who was represented by an immigration attorney who allegedly paid bribes to Bailey, was released by Bailey in 2000, the indictment alleges. Kriko is not charged in the indictment.
Part of the broader scam involved a fraud whereby LaShish Restaurants employees were able to stay in the country through fraudulent marriages to other LaShish employees, according to the grand jury indictment unsealed today.
Chahine, 52, owner of LaShish and already a fugitive on criminal tax charges believed to be living in Lebanon, is one of five defendants named in the indictment.
It was not clear how much in total bribes Bailey is accused of accepting, but officials said it exceeds $50,000 in cash, jewelry, home improvements, landscaping and casino chips.
In addition to releasing and adjusting terms for aliens who were supposed to be deported, Bailey brought a gun across the border from Windsor for Leon, who gave him more than $10,000 in bribes for various favors, the indictment alleges.
Leon is well-known for serving the needy free turkey dinners at his seven Metro Detroit restaurants on the day before Thanksgiving.
Leon and his attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
Bailey, who accepted free meals worth more than $5,000 at one of Leon's restaurants, also allowed an associate of Leon's to enter the U.S. from Syria based on fraudulent documents, the indictment alleges.
Bailey is also accused of failing to report the theft of more than $300,000 from aliens housed at a deportation center in Monroe. Patrick Wynne, a former detention officer there, was sentenced to 57 months in prison in January 2006 for his role in those thefts.
Ivezaj had a Ferndale construction company, TMI Construction Co., which did more than $5,000 in free residential construction work for Bailey, the indictment alleges. Ivezaj also obtained $50,000 in 2003 on behalf of another person in immigration custody who was released by Bailey at about the same time, the indictment alleges.
Chahine is not accused in the indictment of paying bribes to Bailey, but of conspiracy to commit extortion by a public official.
The indictment alleges Chahine obtained more than $250,000 in cash and real estate from the family of a Lebanese man through extortion.
Also named in the indictment is Mohamad Arzouni, 59, of Dearborn Heights, identified as a LaShish employee, and Mohammad Bazzi, 61, a relative of Chahine's and a LaShish employee from 2001 to 2005. Bazzi, formerly of Detroit, is not yet in custody and may be in Australia, officials said.
Arzouni and Bazzi are each charged with conspiracy to defraud the federal government.
Murphy said the case is serious but he believes it is an isolated incident and he does not believe there is widespread corruption in the federal immigration service.


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