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Former ICE attorney sentenced 17 years for taking bribes

March 21, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
There was a sentencing Monday, for a once-prominent attorney for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

He was convicted of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from the very people he was supposed to be prosecuting.

Constantine Kallas was a federal immigration attorney, a prosecutor. Casino surveillance video showed him about to get a $20,000 bribe to get a green card for an illegal immigrant. Kallas was convicted for this bribe and 35 other federal crimes.

Prosecutors believe Kallas received $950,000 in cash bribes over five years. In federal court Monday he was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison.

"He essentially engaged in a conspiracy as a prosecutor to engage in criminal acts with the people he was charged to prosecute," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Raymond Aghaian.

Kallas' attorney Dean Steward said the sentence was too stiff; he argued for seven years. Prosecutors wanted 30 years.

"It's exceptionally stiff," said Steward. "In fact I'm aware of some murder cases in the federal system that did not receive sentences like that. I attribute it to the U.S. Attorney's Office grossly unfair attitude towards the case from day one."

Prosecutors said the sentence was justified.

"He appeared in front of the federal judge and asked the case to be dismissed, which happened to be his housekeeper's daughter," said Aghaian. "He dismissed the case on a misrepresentation made to the judge as a lawyer, as a prosecutor."

Video showed Kallas taking money from the immigrant and putting it in his pocket, one of the last bribes he received. In addition to nearly $1 million in bank accounts, investigators found more than $177,000 cash hidden in a floor safe.

Seventeen years is one of the heaviest sentences ever for a federal bribery conviction. Kallas' attorney said there will be an appeal.

His wife, Maria Kallas is accused of helping her husband. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy and bribery. Her sentence is now scheduled for May.