Iosif Caza, an interpreter who insists he was caught up in zeal to help fellow Romanians escape persecution in their homeland, was sentenced Monday in Sacramento federal court to 7 1/2 years in prison for helping dupe authorities into granting scores of bids for asylum based on false documents and testimony.
Caza, 44, worked with attorneys at a now-defunct Sacramento law firm, three of whom were sentenced to prison Friday. He, like two of the lawyers, was taken into custody immediately.
The years-long fraud sent shock waves through the government's immigration apparatus. The Department of Homeland Security is working to correct the flaws in the asylum system exposed by the investigation and prosecution, while at the same time reviewing a mountain of cases that were handled by the Sekhon & Sekhon law firm to determine whether they will be reopened.
"When the asylum process is corrupted by cheating and lying, that cuts to the heart of what this country is about," said U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. in imposing Caza's sentence.
The judge was angry about Caza's view of himself as a savior of his people, especially as he expressed that view in a Bee article published Friday.
"We don't need heroes like him," the judge told Caza and his lawyer, Assistant Federal Defender Timothy Zindel.
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Early in the Caza hearing, which began late Friday and was continued to Monday, Damrell demanded that Caza tell him whether he was misquoted. But, when Caza started to speak, Zindel stopped him.
"Let him answer," Damrell ordered. "I want to know if he was misquoted."
"I'm doing the talking for Mr. Caza today," Zindel said evenly.