Crime - Sacto 911

Ask Sacto 911crime Q&A: What happened to lawyers, clients in immigration scam?

Whatever happened to immigrants from the former Soviet Union who falsified their paperwork seeking asylum, citing false religious persecution? What happened to the two lawyers, brothers, who assisted them?

– Mari H., Sacramento

Three attorneys and two interpreters with Sacramento’s now-defunct Sekhon & Sekhon law firm were convicted in 2009 of numerous charges, including conspiracy to defraud the government by filing false asylum claims.

Brothers Jagprit Singh Sekhon and Jagdip Singh Sekhon were partners in the firm, which had offices in Sacramento and San Francisco. They, along with attorney Manjit Kaur Rai and Romanian interpreters Iosif Caza and Luciana Harmath, were convicted in federal court.

As many as 700 immigrants reportedly were coached by the defendants to tell phony stories of torture and rape to immigration judges and asylum officers. According to stories in The Sacramento Bee, between 2000 and 2004, the firm filed hundreds of claims for Romanians, Indians, Nepalis and Fijians.

Jagprit Singh Sekhon was sentenced to nine years in prison and Jagdip Singh Sekhon to five years in prison. Rai was sentenced to 21/2 years , Caza to 7 1/2 years and Harmath to four months in prison.

Bee staff writer Stephen Magagnini, who has covered the case, said hundreds of immigrants involved remain in limbo, as they must repeat the application process. Because they have had to seek other attorneys, he said, it is difficult to track the outcome of the cases.