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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Indicted lawyer invited to White House Party (Immigration fraud!)




Thursday, February 8, 2007

President George W. Bush invited a New Jersey lawyer to a White House holiday party less than two months after the attorney was indicted on immigration fraud charges, according to court records.

Jonathan Saint-Preux was indicted on Oct. 5 with his wife, Michele, and another man on federal charges that they submitted fraudulent documents to help hundreds of undocumented immigrants stay in the U.S. Saint-Preux, who pleaded innocent, attended the White House party on Nov. 30, said his attorney, Patrick Toscano.

U.S. District Judge Katharine Hayden in Newark, New Jersey, signed an order granting permission for Saint-Preux ''to travel to Washington DC to attend a function at the White House at the request of President and Mrs. Bush." A Justice Department prosecutor consented to the trip, court records show.

''He was at a Christmas party," Michele Saint-Preux said today in an interview at her husband's office in Irvington, New Jersey, where she is the manager. ''He's been doing political work with the White House for years."

Inside the law office were separate framed photographs of Saint-Preux with first lady Laura Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Democratic New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Michele Saint-Preux said her husband also did political work to support former President Bill Clinton.

White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore didn't have details on why Saint-Preux was invited to the party. ''Thousands of people attend the White House holiday parties," she said.

Jonathan Saint-Preux didn't return a message left with his wife. Hayden didn't return a call seeking comment.

Bush Not Aware?

''I doubt very highly that if the president was aware that Mr. Saint-Preux was having legal problems here in New Jersey, he would have been invited," Toscano said in an interview. ''It wasn't Mr. Saint-Preux's intent to cause problems for anybody."

Toscano and Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Lurie signed a consent order that allowed Saint-Preux to take the trip. Hayden approved that order on Dec. 1. Saint-Preux is free on $250,000 bail and is not supposed to leave New Jersey without a judge's authorization. It wasn't clear why Hayden signed the order on Dec. 1, the day after the party.

''This is the sort of request that we get routinely from defense lawyers wanting to relax the bail restrictions because of business, family, or social reasons," said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie in Newark.

According to the indictment, Saint-Preux, his wife, and a man who recruited clients for him, Naranjan Patel, lied on immigration documents. They claimed the immigrants had lived continuously in the U.S. from before 1982 until at least May 1987, prosecutors said. Prosecutors claim the ruse was intended to help immigrants qualify for legal residency under a U.S. amnesty program.

False Documents

The indictment, which accuses Saint-Preux of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and seven counts of submitting false immigration documents, cites seven unnamed ''cooperating witnesses" who have provided evidence to prosecutors.

Saint-Preux, then 44, was arrested on Oct. 12. Toscano said plea negotiations are underway. ''We're hoping to amicably resolve this," he said.

Saint-Preux donated $1,100 to New Jersey Republicans in 2004 and 2005, according to opensecrets.org, a Web site.

''I know that Jonathan was active in political circles, but I can't speak to how he was invited to the White House Christmas party," Toscano said.

On Nov. 30, Bush met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki in Amman, Jordan, before returning to Washington. The buffet menu at the holiday party included sugar cured Virginia ham and chicken fried beef tenderloin, according to the White House Web site.

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