NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) A North Carolina licensed attorney has been sentenced for harboring an alien, U.S. Attorney said.
Robert J. Higdon, Jr., United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, said that Sarah J. Brinson, 34, of Clinton, was sentenced by United States District Judge Louise W. Flanagan to three months in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release, for the crime of harboring an alien.
On June 4, Brinson pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging that she encouraged and induced an alien to reside in the United States, knowing and in reckless disregard of the fact that such residence in the United States was in violation of the law.
Pursuant to the terms of the plea agreement leading to Brinson’s guilty plea, she surrendered her law license to the North Carolina State Bar and forfeited $5,000.
According to court records, Homeland Security Investigations initiated an inquiry into Brinson, a licensed attorney and notary public in North Carolina, based upon her representation of an alien in North Carolina state court.
The representation included appearing before a North Carolina district court judge to enter a prayer for judgment continued on behalf of an alien while knowing the alien was assuming the identity of a United States citizen.
In the meantime, Brinson represented the same alien in immigration proceedings under the alien’s real name without disclosing the alien’s use of another name.
Further, Brinson notarized the alien’s signature under the assumed name in connection with North Carolina state court proceedings, while knowing that was not the alien’s true name.
Additionally, the investigation revealed that from December 2011 to August 31, 2014, Brinson hired an illegal alien to work at her law firm knowing the employee was unlawfully present in the United States.
United States Attorney Higdon commented, “Misconduct by a member of the Bar – and officer of the Court – is particularly troubling and poses a grave threat to the administration of our civil and criminal justice systems. The prosecution of this defendant, an attorney, is critical if we are to maintain the integrity of our legal system. And, here, the prosecution itself, even more than the actual sentence, sends a message throughout the legal system that we expect lawyers to be honest and reliable or face the consequences of their misconduct.”
“This individual had no regard for our nation’s laws. She blatantly hired and harbored an individual illegally present in the United States and willingly represented an alien who was using someone else’s identity,” said Ronnie Martinez, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Charlotte. HSI’s investigative work through the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force ensured this attorney can no longer practice law in North Carolina.”
The Document Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF) in the Eastern District of North Carolina investigated the case.