A federal judge sentenced an Illinois immigration lawyer who cheated the immigration system to make sure his clients were granted asylum in the U.S. to 15 months in prison Wednesday.
Prosecutors say Robert Dekelaita, who called himself “Robin Hood” for refugees, would forge the names of his clients seeking asylum on application papers and fabricate their life stories with horrific anecdotes of kidnappings, bombings, and religious persecution that were all false, drawing inspiration from news stories he collected, CBS Chicago reported.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly sentenced Dekelaita to 15 months in prison for conspiracy to commit asylum fraud a year after Dekelaita was convicted, noting that even if he broke the law with noble intentions, he would “have to be willing to pay the price for it.”
Kennelly encouraged Dekelaita, 54, of Glenview, to file a motion to remain free while he appeals his conviction.
Dekelaita is an Assyrian Christian who immigrated to the United States from Iraq at 10-years-old as his family fled persecution from the Baath regime, according to his lawyers. His lawyers argued during the trial that illegal immigrants fearing deportation lied to the U.S. government to help them build its case against Dekelaita.
Federal prosecutors also say Dekelaita sent his clients a letter after his conviction saying that he “cheated no one and have not told anyone to lie. I have protected my clients as any good attorney should.”
His former clients now face deportation because of the fraud or their lives were ruined because they were forced to live out the lies he created for them, prosecutors say.
Dekelaita chose not to make a statement in court and showed no reaction to the verdict during the two hour hearing, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Prosecutors also charged two translators who worked for Dekelaita, Adam Benjamin and Yousif Yousif, for intentionally mistranslating answers given by clients and adding testimony they had not given to make sure they were granted asylum.
Benjamin, 63, pleaded guilty in July 2015 to one count of fraud and was sentenced to six months in prison for his role in the conspiracy.
Prosecutors agreed to defer Yousif’s prosecution so long as he stayed out of trouble, court records show.