WASHINGTON D.C.- The Justice Department today announced that a federal jury in Los Angeles convicted Thomas A. Powell Jr., an Immigration and Naturalization Service asylum officer, on corruption and civil rights charges.
Powell was convicted of using his power as an asylum officer to victimize two Chinese women in 2000. In one incident, he touched a female immigrant through her clothes and demanded sexual favors in exchange for recommending approval of her asylum application. She rejected his sexual advances, and her application for asylum was subsequently denied. In a second incident, Powell solicited and received a $2,000 bribe from another female immigrant who was seeking political asylum. In exchange for the bribe, Powell recommended approval of the asylum application.
"The American people place their trust in the professionalism of public officials. Government officials who abuse their authority to prey on others dishonor our country and their fellow civil servants who serve it with dignity and compassion," said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "This conviction sends a clear message that we will not tolerate misuse of power by those who hold a public trust."
"The Civil Rights Section in my office is committed to protecting the rights of all residents," said Debra W. Yang, United States Attorney for the Central District of California. "We are also committed to aggressively prosecuting those who violate this nation's civil rights laws, particularly those who abuse their positions of authority."
Powell faces a maximum of 31 years in federal prison. Sentencing is scheduled to occur on November 22, 2004.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Inspector General. It was jointly prosecuted by attorneys from Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney's Office for the Central District of California.