[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

28947: Hermantin(news)Ex-agency head gets 8 years in prison (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Posted on Sat, Aug. 19, 2006

Ex-agency head gets 8 years in prison
A judge sentenced the leader of an Haitian-American organization after a jury found him guilty of immigration scam.

The former head of an immigration and social services agency was sentenced Friday to eight years in federal prison for his role what authorities called an immigration scam.

Gomez Accime, 53, headed the Haitian-American Community Help Organization, a Lauderdale Lakes-based agency set up in a strip mall. In March, a jury convicted Accime of mail fraud and falsifying work permit applications for immigrants. He was forced to leave office.

U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lenard also sentenced Accime to three years' probation.

Immigration officials said HACHO employees overcharged applicants, receiving $450 each for work permit applications that were filled out with incorrect codes. Between April 2003 and June 2005, HACHO workers filed more than 10,000 applications -- most of which were rejected, officials said.

Caribbean immigrants and others living in states like New York and Oregon sometimes spent more than a day waiting in line at their store. HACHO pocketed more than $3 million, officials said.

Accime was acquitted of the conspiracy charge in March but convicted of the other charges.

Accime has been out on bail since federal agents arrested him as he drove to HACHO office last summer.

Friday, dressed in a gray suit, he surrendered in the lobby of U.S. District Court in Miami, said his attorney Sebastian Cotrone. Accime was surrounded by supporters from the Haitian community, including local pastors, Cotrone said.

''I will stand by him as being a pillar of his community,'' Cotrone said Friday. ``He got in trouble for not knowing what he was doing was wrong.''

Accime's attorneys had argued that he deserved 6 to 12 months in jail.

In June, Lenard placed the organization on probation for three years and fined it $50,000.

HACHO supporters say the organization helped immigrants obtain drivers licenses, sponsored afterschool activities and gave away food and clothing to immigrants.

A New York attorney said clients told him HACHO used a political pitch to draw immigrants in the run up to the 2004 election. The pitch was that HACHO had a special work alien permit created by Gov. Jeb Bush in an effort to get his brother relected, Joseph Famuyide told The Miami Herald last year.

But the governor's office has said they never offered to give his group preferential treatment.

''Immigrants looking for guidance fell prey to this unscrupulous individual, who corrupted our immigration system for personal profit,'' R. Alexander Acosta, U.S Attorney for the Southern District of Florida said Friday in a press release.

``Today's sentence makes clear that we will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who seek to defraud our immigration system for personal gain.''