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Ex-immigration attorney sentenced to 17 years for taking bribes

Constantine Peter Kallas was convicted of fraud, identity theft and dozens of other felony charges after accepting more than $400,000 in bribes to help illegal immigrants stay in the U.S.

March 22, 2011|By Sam Allen, Los Angeles Times

A former federal immigration attorney from Rancho Cucamonga was sentenced Monday to 17 years in prison for accepting more than $400,000 in bribes in exchange for helping illegal immigrants remain in the United States.

Constantine Peter Kallas, 40, was convicted last year of three dozen felony counts, including bribery, obstruction of justice, fraud, identity theft and tax evasion.

The former assistant chief counsel with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operated a far-reaching scheme in which he falsely represented himself to immigrants as a judge, illegally claimed workers' compensation benefits and misappropriated people's identities, prosecutors said.

In a sentencing memorandum filed in court, prosecutors described the case as "an epic display of a public official's greed."

"Mr. Kallas has received one of the longest sentences ever seen in a public corruption case," U.S. Atty. Andre Birotte Jr. said in a statement.

Kallas' attorney, Dean Steward, said that before the sentencing, his client expressed remorse in a statement to Judge Terry Hatter Jr. Kallas, who has been in custody since his arrest in 2008, planned to file an appeal this week, Steward said.

"We are deeply disappointed in the sentence — for a white-collar case, it's a really lengthy period of time," Steward said Monday afternoon. "I have handled federal homicide cases where the defendant got less."

The U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles also released surveillance video showing Kallas accepting an envelope containing $20,000 cash from a government informant at the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highland.

Prosecutors used the June 2008 video as evidence during Kallas' three-week trial last April. In the video, Kallas takes a manila envelope from the informant and says, "I'm going to put it in my pocket, OK? I'm not going to go anywhere."

Kallas was arrested about 10 minutes after the clip ends, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in L.A.

In addition to his government salary, Kallas and his wife, Maria, had deposited $950,000 into their bank accounts since 2000, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Raymond Aghaian.

Of that amount, at least $425,854 came in the form of payments from illegal immigrants. Investigators also found $177,000 in cash and more than two dozen official immigration files in a floor safe at the Kallas' home, Aghaian said.

In addition to his prison sentence, Kallas was ordered to pay $296,865 in restitution for fraudulent workers' compensation benefits.

Kallas had joined the immigration department's predecessor agency in 1998. He has been on unpaid leave since January 2007.

Maria Kallas, 41, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in November 2009. She is set to be sentenced in May.

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