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Ex-Clerk Sentenced in INS File Shredding

The former worker gets probation and house arrest in the case of destroyed immigration documents. He intends to file an appeal.

August 10, 2004|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

A former INS contract clerk convicted of destroying thousands of immigration documents was sentenced in Santa Ana on Monday to three years' probation and six months' house detention.

A federal prosecutor wanted Leonel Salazar, 34, to go to prison. Instead, U.S. District Judge Alicemarie Stotler said that the sentence was within federal guidelines and that a harsher punishment might have destroyed his family.

Authorities said Salazar, a former file room senior supervisor at the Immigration and Naturalization Service office in Laguna Niguel -- now known as the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services -- shredded the files to reduce a 90,000-document backlog and save his job.

"We don't know what was destroyed; no one will ever know what was destroyed," said Assistant U.S. Atty. Gregory Staples.

A hotline was set up for problems related to the case, but no one has said that his or her immigration situation was negatively affected.

Craig Wilke, Salazar's public defender, had argued for leniency, saying that if his client destroyed documents, it was not done maliciously. He was following orders from his supervisor to do so, Wilke said.

Salazar intends to appeal his conviction.

"The prosecution has yet to come up with one person who was affected or whose INS case was interrupted" by the paper destruction, Wilke said.

Dawn Randall, Salazar's boss, is scheduled to be tried in February on charges of conspiracy and destruction of documents.

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