Immigration Official Pleads Guilty to Falsifying Documents
Friday, December 1, 2006
A Department of Homeland Security supervisor pleaded guilty yesterday to pocketing more than $600,000 in bribes in exchange for falsifying immigration documents to help Asian immigrants obtain U.S. citizenship.
Prosecutors said Robert T. Schofield issued fake documentation for hundreds of immigrants during an eight-year scheme he ran out of his Fairfax County office. Schofield, 57, was a supervisor for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes immigration applications, until he resigned in the past two weeks .
Court documents said Schofield employed a network of brokers who brought him immigrants needing citizenship, a green card or entry into the United States. Earning up to $10,000 per immigrant, he used some of the money to buy his $387,000 Fairfax home and to pay down the mortgage, the documents said. When Schofield was arrested in June, federal agents found $3,900 cash in his jacket pocket in his office.
When he was arrested, Schofield supervised a staff of nine at the agency's Washington District Office. He had been the acting assistant director for examinations from 1998 to 2004, supervising 50 employees.
Schofield was not asked by the judge to explain his actions yesterday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria when he pleaded guilty to bribery and unlawful procurement of citizenship or naturalization. His lawyers declined to comment. He faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 23.
"The breadth and scope of Mr. Schofield's fraud and corruption are truly stunning," said U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg. He said Schofield had "undermined our efforts to secure our borders."
Court documents indicate that accusations against the 30-year federal employee were not new. Over the past decade, federal officials investigated numerous bribery allegations involving Schofield and Asian immigration applicants when he worked at the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, according to court documents unsealed when Schofield was charged in June.
Schofield was demoted at one point for "conduct unbecoming a government employee," the documents say, and had an "inappropriate relationship" with a woman connected to an INS criminal probe. When confronted about that relationship by INS officials, Schofield fled to East Asia, where he made $36,000 worth of unauthorized purchases on his government-issued credit card, according to court documents.
It remains unclear when Schofield returned to the United States, how the previous investigations ended and how Schofield became a supervisor when the Department of Homeland Security took over INS's functions in 2003.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald L. Walutes said that the evidence against Schofield in the current case was overwhelming and that the government "very strongly opposes" an effort by defense lawyers to get him released on bond before his sentencing. Court documents said the government has identified 184 illegal immigrants who falsely received U.S. citizenship from Schofield, but Walutes said the government believes the actual number is in the hundreds. "We have to go out and arrest these people," Walutes said. "It's a huge endeavor."
Defense lawyer Alan Yamamoto said that Schofield plans to help his old office examine files he handled to show how many false documents were issued and that it would be easier if he was free.
U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris disagreed and ordered Schofield back to jail after the hearing.