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Two Chinese Nationals Receive $1.2 Million for Sexual Extortion by INS Official

In the case of Lu v. Powell, two Chinese nationals who attempted to petition for asylum were offered asylum in exchange for money or sexual favors by Thomas Powell, an Immigration and Naturalization officer. After a sting operation by the U.S. Justice Department, Powell was arrested and convicted of two counts of federal corruption. In the subsequent civil case against Powell and the U.S. government, the two litigants were awarded $1.2 million in damages for the extortion and sexual advances of the government official.

As a longtime immigration attorney, I am always pleased to see justice done when a corruption of power of occurs. In this particular case, an INS official utilized his authority to extort money or sexual favors from desperate immigrants and his conviction and civil judgment are just recompense for his abuse of the public trust.

Xue Lu arrived in the U.S. in 1997 and met Powell in 2000 when she petitioned for asylum. Lu sought asylum as a result of persecution from Chinese police following her violations of China’s family planning laws. Powell met Lu at her home and fondled her. He told Lu that he could provide a green card if she was compliant to his sexual demands. She rejected him and was denied asylum shortly afterwards.

Jie Hao is the other complainant in the legal action who petitioned for asylum due to religious persecution. At the videotaped interview with Powell, Powell again made sexual advances upon the petitioner, but also offered asylum in exchange for $2,000. At a second meeting with Powell prompted by the Department of Justice, Hao provided the $2,000 which led to Powell’s arrest. He was convicted of federal corruption charges in 2004.

Unfortunately, Lu was not granted asylum despite Powell’s conviction. His adverse credibility determination was the primary justification for this denial. Hao currently resides in the United States along with her family.

Following litigation that lasted almost 13 years, Lu was awarded $500,000 and Hao was awarded almost $700,000. It remains uncertain whether either will be able to receive their awards because the government has expressed a strong desire to appeal the verdict. Prior to the judgment, the litigants had initially brought suit against Powell’s supervisor Robert Looney as well as ten unnamed agents of the U.S. government. Looney eventually settled with Lu and Hao, while the ten unnamed agents were dismissed by stipulation.

I have been an immigration attorney long enough to recognize that grave injustices do occur within the complex immigration system, but malicious and criminal acts like those perpetrated by Thomas Powell is utterly beyond the pale. It is immensely satisfying to see a miscarriage of justice like this corrected by the U.S. justice system.

Lyttle Law Firm, PLLC has represented many clients in a variety of immigration and family law cases. To learn more about how Lyttle Law Firm may be able to assist you, please call (512)215-5225.

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