Sometimes you have to read a government press release very carefully to understand the whole story, especially when the government has been tricked.
The headline of ICE’s press release sounds very positive: “HSI [Homeland Security Investigations] investigation results in the arrest of 2 men for involvement in a lawyer impersonation scheme”.
What happened is a highly successful story of sneakiness set in motion by two San Antonio immigration attorneys that must have lasted a few years before federal authorities stumbled upon it. The two lawyers are Jose Maria Guerrero, 68, and his slightly older colleague, Rodolfo Solis Zepada, 75. Guerrero had resigned from practicing law in 2016 rather than face disciplinary action – no details were provided about that in the statement. Zepada was still an active member of the bar with, apparently, a plethora of clients, including many illegal aliens.
If Zepada had more than he could handle in immigration courts that sometimes allow lawyers to phone in their arguments, why not ask Guerrero to impersonate him on the phone? They made a deal to do just that, and according to the statement, “HSI agents have identified at least 100 different occasions” when it happened.
Have the courts used the Zoom technique of holding meetings during an internet conference call showing the faces of the participants? Apparently not.
It’s not that the courts are completely shy of technology. I remember attending immigration court hearings in Arlington, Virginia half a dozen years ago, in which a closed-circuit television system allowed prisoners in a center prison in Farmville, Va., to appear in court virtually without leaving the center. (which is about 100 miles from the courtroom.) Zoom is much cheaper and less complicated than CCTV.
A Zoomed lawyer system would reduce costs for foreigners, allow for greater representation of lawyers in a system in which many foreigners lack legal advice, and is therefore generally a good thing. But a phone system is just waiting to be corrupted.
Too often the bad guys are more imaginative than the good guys.