Robert DeKelaita was a former north suburban immigration lawyer. He was renowned for advocating on behalf of Syrian and Iraqis.
He was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison on Wednesday. This was after allegations that he falsified paperwork in a bid to help clients win asylum in the United States on fake claims of torture and religious persecution.
Robert DeKelaita requested for probation. U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly denied his request and said that the decade long fraud scheme has eroded the public's trust in the country's immigration system.
Judge Kennelly said that when people don't have faith in a system, it's much easier to cut it back or do away with it.
Judge Kennelly appeared to be very lenient to Dekalaita since his sentence was below the approximately 3 1/2 years in prison which was sought by prosecutors.
The prosecutors argued that DeKelaita was a master manipulator of a process that heavily relied on truthfulness.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrianna Kastenek and Lindsay Jenkins wrote in a recent court filing that DeKelaita had learned the loopholes and exploited them. He would therefore fit his carefully drafted lies into what he knew the asylum officers were looking for.
DeKelaita would match the lies with media reports of real events in the client’s home countries.
Judge Kennelly said he found the case to be very confusing especially when it came to DeKelaita's motives. DeKelaita did not appear to get rich from the scheme. He did not overcharge the clients. The judge said that he was not sure if that was infuriating or justifying.
The 54-year-old DeKelaita, was found guilty by a federal jury last year of conspiracy to commit asylum fraud, submitting a false statement to the government to obtain asylum, lying in an asylum application and suborning perjury from a client.
Judge Kennelly later reversed the verdicts on all but the conspiracy count on technical grounds.
DeKelaita was charged in September 2014 with accepting fees to submit false information on behalf of clients.
Most of the clients were foreign nationals. He went ahead and coached them on how to lie during the interviews with the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.
DeKelaita used false applicant names, religions, dates of entry into the U.S., birthdays and family histories and wrote up phony accounts of rape, murder and other religious persecution at the hands of reputed Islamic extremists in Iraq, so that he could win the clients asylum.