A suburban immigration attorney and a man who provided translation services for the lawyer and his law firm were arrested today after being indicted on federal charges for allegedly falsifying requests for asylum for a dozen clients over approximately a decade. In some instances, the charges allege that the attorney and interpreter falsely claimed that their clients were seeking asylum because their clients were subjected to religious persecution by Islamic extremists in Iraq.
The attorney, ROBERT DEKELAITA, 51, of Glenview, and his contract interpreter, ADAM BENJAMIN, 61, of Skokie, were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit immigration and naturalization fraud. DeKelaita was also charged with three counts each of immigration fraud and suborning perjury, and Benjamin was also charged with two counts each of immigration fraud and suborning perjury in a seven-count indictment that was returned by a federal grand jury on Sept. 4 and unsealed today following their arrests.
Federal agents with the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General and the FBI today executed a search warrant at the law offices of R.W. DeKelaita & Associates, LLC, located in the 5800 block of West Dempster Street, in Morton Grove.
DeKelaita and Benjamin were scheduled to be arraigned at 2 p.m. today before U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly in Federal Court.
The arrests and indictment were announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Armando Lopez, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Homeland Security Office of Inspector General in Chicago; and Robert J. Holley, Special Agentin- Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Customs and Border Protection, as well as the Farmington Hills, Mich., Police Department, assisted in the investigation.
Individuals granted asylum may later seek lawful permanent residence and, eventually, naturalized U.S. citizenship. The DHS Office of Inspector General will coordinate with other DHS branches to review the immigration status of DeKelaita’s clients, Mr. Lopez said.
The indictment alleges that between 2000 and 2011, in exchange for fees, DeKelaita and Benjamin agreed to submit false information to USCIS on behalf of clients who were foreign nationals, as well as coach these clients on how to best present the false information to an asylum officer, and represent these clients in presenting the false information during asylum interviews.
As part of the conspiracy, DeKelaita allegedly conducted screening interviews of his clients to determine information that might bar clients from lawfully receiving asylum. He then completed immigration forms on their behalf using false names, false religions, false travel dates, false dates of entry into the United States, false birthdays, and false family histories, and allegedly submitted these forms to USCIS. DeKelaita also wrote and created false asylum statements detailing fictitious accounts of purported religious persecution, including false accounts of rape and murder, the charges allege. The indictment alleges examples in which DeKelaita’s clients falsely claimed that they or immediate family members were victims of violence or threatened with violence by Islamic extremists in Iraq.
DeKelaita allegedly also submitted and caused the submission of false affidavits, baptismal certificates, identity documents, and other documents to USCIS and the Executive Office for Immigration Review on behalf of their clients. DeKelaita signed his clients’ names on certain immigration forms without their knowledge or permission, the indictment alleges.
DeKelaita and Benjamin allegedly assisted clients in memorizing false information in preparing them for asylum interviews. Benjamin allegedly intentionally mistranslated answers given by clients and added testimony not actually stated by them in an effort to secure asylum on their behalf. DeKelaita and Benjamin agreed and intended that their clients would obtain asylum and use it to seek lawful permanent residence and naturalization, according to the charges.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Grohman.
Conspiracy to commit immigration and naturalization fraud, as well as each count of suborning perjury, carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, while each count of immigration fraud carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of approximately $60,000 from DeKelaita. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal sentencing statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.
The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.