One Victory, but Two Big Losses in Three Unrelated Federal Court Cases

By David North, August 21, 2012

There were three unrelated federal court cases in the news August 20, with two of the three being losses for the limited-immigration people.

Sadly, the former head of the Border Patrol Agents' union, Terrence "T.J." Bonner, was indicted in federal court in southern California for allegedly stealing money from his own union. Bonner, in the past, had argued for a stricter enforcement of immigration law than the administration prefers, a position that the union, part of the American Federation of Government Employees, continues to support.

Meanwhile, a federal judge, apparently grudgingly, has decided that what a major H-1B employer, Infosys, did to its whistle-blowing employee, Jay Palmer, was not in violation of Alabama law. The judge dismissed Palmer's civil suit against Infosys, but as Palmer's attorney Kenny Mendolsohn pointed out, Infosys is still in the midst of a federal criminal investigation on related matters.

According to Computerworld: "'Without question, the alleged electronic and telephonic threats are deeply troubling,' wrote [Judge] Thompson. 'Indeed, an argument could be made that such threats against whistleblowers, in particular, should be illegal.'"

The judge found, however, that nothing Infosys had done was contrary to Alabama employment law, which is heavily tipped against workers.

Palmer, an Infosys employee, had objected to the firm's use of the B-1 visa to bring low-paid workers into the United States in violation of immigration law, and had sued his employer for the harassment that Palmer said ensued.

My sense is that Infosys, usually identified as an Indian bodyshop or outsourcing firm, is likely to fire Palmer, if it has not done so already. It kept him on the payroll, but assigned him no work, throughout the judicial proceedings.

Meanwhile, however, something useful was happening in Brooklyn. An alleged alien abuser of the immigrant investor (EB-5) program was actually thrown (at least for the moment) into jail. The usual result of trying to beat that controversial program is that the would-be investor doesn't get a green card, but this time the result was more dramatic.

The would-be Brooklyn investor, an Israeli citizen named Ofer Biton, had applied under the immigrant investor program, putting up $500,000 to invest in a not-described business in a depressed area in the United States. (If the investment had been in a prosperous area, it would have had to be at the $1 million level.) As part of the petition (Form I-526) Biton had been forced to tell the government the exact source of the money.

But as an FBI investigator found out, Biton's story about how he got the $500,000 was not accurate, he had tried to wash the perhaps questionable money through at least one third party, and that that person (also not identified) had successfully informed on Biton. This led to the federal fraud indictment. Users of PACER, the federal court's electronic document system, can read the whole convoluted and sordid story in case 1:12-mj-00755-SMG Document 6.

The magistrate judge handling the indictment ruled "there is a serious risk that the defendant will not appear [in court]" and that the "defendant presented no credible sureties to assure his appearance."

Although I find it cheering to know that an alien seeking fraudulently to use the EB-5 program has been dispatched to an ICE detention facility (at least until a bail bond hearing), there is a certain resemblance to sending Al Capone to the pen for income tax evasion. Biton and some of his friends are in serious trouble for other reasons.

Biton had once been a close ally of a controversial rabbi who operated both in New York City and in Israel, Rabbi Yashiyahu Yosef Pinto. The rabbi now says that Biton swindled him out of large sums of money and subsequently threatened him. Meanwhile, according to the New York Times:

While it was not mentioned in the complaint, Mr. Biton has also emerged as a key figure in the 2009-10 congressional campaign of Rep. Michael G. Grimm, a Republican who represents Staten Island and Brooklyn and is seeking re-election. Though Mr. Biton is barred from raising money for federal election campaigns because he is an illegal immigrant, he is said to have raised much of Mr. Grimm's campaign money for that race from the rabbi's followers and left the impression with some of them that he expected help with his visa problems in return if Mr. Grimm was elected.

The Times article speculated that the EB-5 matter was used to jail Biton because the feds did not want the existence of any more significant charges to complicate what might turn out to be a plea bargain arrangement and Biton's possible testimony against his alleged co-conspirators.

But in the meantime, given the other bad news from other court rooms, it is nice to have an illegal alien who sought to hoodwink the EB-5 program put into jail, whatever the reason.