New Jersey 101.5 video

An immigration official who was supposed to be upholding the nation's immigration laws was instead flouting them, and profiting in the process.

Even his girlfriend and business partner was in the country illegally.

Arnaldo Echevarria, 39, of the Somerset section of Franklin, was convicted by a federal jury Thursday of accepting cash bribes and sex from unauthorized immigrants in exchange for documents. He also was convicted of giving his girlfriend a job at his hair salon and covering up her illegal status.

Federal prosecutors say Echevarria took advantage of a program that provides annual work authorizations to immigrants facing deportation.

He was accused of trading $75,000 in bribes, and sex with one person, between 2012 and 2014 supposedly for these authorizations.

The immigrants never actually got those authorizations. Instead, Echevarria protected them from deportation by falsely claiming that they had been granted temporary protected status for people fleeing disaster or war.

Prosecutors say he and his girlfriend, who he knew had immigrated to the United States illegally, opened a hair salon in West Orange after obtaining permission to do so from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Prosecutors said Echevarria kept his girlfriend's status secret by putting her lease and utility bills under his name. He also paid his employees in cash and did not have them fill out employment documents.

Echevarria is facing up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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