Tuesday, October 19, 2010 5:22 PM EDT
Former judge sentenced in immigration fraud case
By Surojit Chatterjee
A former New York Supreme Court judge has been sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted of running an "immigration fraud mill."
Salvador Collazo, who ran a law practice in Bronx, was sentenced last week, by Southern District Judge Shira Scheindlin, to two years in prison for filing bogus green-card applications. The judge has called the fraud "predatory" in nature.
Last month, Dalia Preldakaj, Collazo's paralegal was sentenced to 6 and 1/2 years in prison.
In April 2010, a trial court had found Collazo and Preldakaj guilty of preparing hundreds of fraudulent applications for amnesty and other related immigration benefits on behalf of their immigration clients and then submitting those applications to the United States Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
An investigation led the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to submit evidence that Collazo had falsely signed an amnesty application, under penalty of perjury, that he had personal knowledge of all of the information contained in the application, or that the information had been provided to him directly by the applicant, when in fact he did not and it had not.
Evidence submitted against Preldakaj showed that she charged clients exorbitant amount of money by falsely claiming they were fees charged by USCIS and depositing the illegal gains in nominee bank accounts that did not belong to her but which she controlled.
Preldakaj was also accused of witness tampering in August 2009 while she was on bail.
While Collazo was found guilty of one count each of conspiracy to commit immigration application fraud, immigration application fraud, and false statements, Preldakaj was found guilty of one count each of conspiracy to commit immigration application fraud, immigration application fraud, charging excessive fees in connection with immigration applications, money laundering, engaging in an unlawful monetary transaction, and witness tampering.
Collazo, who was elected to New York Civil Court in 1991 and was designated an acting New York Supreme Court justice two years later, was kicked off the bench in 1998 by the New York Court of Appeals for passing a lewd note to a court attorney about an intern's "knockers" and then later suggesting to the intern to remove her top despite knowing very well she wore nothing underneath.
The Supreme Court of the State of New York is the trial-level court of general jurisdiction in the state court system of New York.