NEWARK, NJ – On Thursday, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced that Arnaldo Echevarria, 37, of Somerset, a deportation officer with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) surrendered this morning to special agents of ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility on charges of harboring his girlfriend, an illegal alien, and making false statements about his ownership of a West Orange-based hair salon, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Echevarria is charged by criminal complaint with one count of harboring an illegal alien and one count of making false statements. Echevarria was scheduled for an initial appearance and bail hearing Thursday, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven C. Mannion.

The charges of harboring an illegal alien and making false statements are each punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss from the offense.

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According to the criminal complaint unsealed on April 9:

Echevarria was a deportation officer with ICE, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In December 2012, Echevarria received permission from his superiors at ICE to open a hair salon in West Orange.

Echevarria certified to ICE that the hair salon would not conflict with ICE matters and would not involve illegal aliens. However, Echevarria employed his girlfriend at the time, an illegal alien, to manage the salon. Echevarria’s girlfriend had entered the United States illegally, using the name and identification of an individual in Puerto Rico to obtain a Pennsylvania identification card.

Echevarria allegedly knew his girlfriend and another salon employee resided in the United States illegally. Prior to opening the hair salon, Echevarria queried the name and date of birth of his girlfriend’s alias in various law enforcement databases. After opening the salon, Echevarria allegedly ensured that his girlfriend’s illegal status remained a secret by signing the lease for her apartment and by placing her cable and electric bills in his name.

In addition to driving his girlfriend and other salon employees to and from the salon each day, Echevarria also paid the employees in cash and never asked them to fill out employment eligibility paperwork.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of ICE, Office of Professional Responsibility, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Terence S. Opiola, with the investigation leading to Thursday’s arrest.  The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Agarwal of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark. Defense counsel is Michael Koribanics Esq., Clifton,