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I saw enough today about Jia Tolentino's parents and "human trafficking" to pull up the docket.

TLDR: the "trafficking" aspect was so weak the judge blew it up mid-trial, but GW Bush's buddy wanted big numbers, so he kept going to extract a plea on a single catch-all charge. /1
The case was brought in the Western District of Texas in 2004. Here's the bio for the guy who was US Attorney throughout the case, a top advisor to GW Bush going back to 1995. Now he's at John Ashcroft's firm doing "internal investigations" and "white-collar criminal defense." /2
The document that keeps getting quoted is ECF 140, a superseding indictment from 05/24/06. It's ugly, and filled with charges of "alien smuggling" and accusations of ripping off the teachers brought in from the Philippines.

These allegations failed completely at trial. /3
"Alien smuggling," as the prosecutor worded it (8 USC § 1324), requires bringing in people illegally.

But they were all present legally.

Mid-way through the trial, the flabbergasted judge stops everything to demand briefing on the actual violation of immigration law. /4
Tolentino's parents ran a company that matched school districts with teachers in the Philippines. They flew the district's personnel out to the Philippines so they could interview applicants, then helped the school fill out the H1-B paperwork.

(pics from Tolentinos' brief)
Every teacher entered lawfully with a valid H1-B visa. The dispute arose from some school districts saying that, even though they selected and agreed to hire the teachers, they later changed their mind, and the Tolentinos should've halted the immigration. /6
The prosecutors' argument for how this was "alien smuggling" was, well, just read it.

The school district's ignorance about the law proved the Tolentinos' criminal intent? Huh?

And for God's sake, "kept the school districts in the dart?" Nobody bothered to proofread? /7
The judge was unimpressed by "smuggling" of documented, lawfully-present people and so blew the trial up entirely, granting the Tolentinos' motion for mistrial.

All of the smuggling and immigration claims were now gone. What's even the point of continuing this prosecution? /8
The US Attorney's Office, however, kept plowing through with a new indictment. All of the trafficking, smuggling, mail fraud, and wire fraud claims are gone. All that's left is a visa fraud claim (18 USC § 1546) and a bunch of catch-all claims, like 18 USC § 371. /9
The whole case is now: school districts interviewed applicants and agreed to hire them, but they say they backed out and the Tolentinos didn't withdraw the H1-B applications.

BTW, this claim conveniently gets the districts off the hook for paying to send the teachers back. /10
The original prosecution and trial—y'know, the one the judge blew up because the bulk of the charges, related to "smuggling," couldn't be proven given that every was present legally—obliterated the Tolentinos' finances, as confirmed by the magistrate judge. /11
Noel Tolentino gets a public defender, who, according to Jia, suggests a plea. He takes it. The US Attorney started with a 40-count indictment filled with smuggling and other heinous crimes and gets a plea for a single violation of the catch-all statute for defrauding the US. /12
So this is another story of a USAO gone awry, grossly overcharging a case, then, when nailed by the judge, spitefully extracting blood.

But there's a silver lining: today the prosecutor gets corporate criminal clients by bragging he was "second in illegal alien prosecutions."🥳
Continuing on one issue that bugs a lot of people: the predatory loan / housing / etc stuff from the superseding indictment. This is all quite bad—and it's also all completely removed in the second superseding indictment. No reference to any of it. /14
The two individuals offering the predatory loans, Librodo and Cruz, were apparently in the Philippines and were not pursued. Once the USAO secured Tolentino's plea, they were dismissed.

So it's not like the victims got relief, or USAO got a plea/verdict, in a separate case. /15
The loans were initially referenced as part of the motive and profit to be earned by the Tolentinos for the whole alleged scheme. The only reason that would be dropped from the second superseding indictment is if there wasn't a shred of evidence connecting the loans to them. /16
My suspicion is that Librodo and Cruz had their own predatory loan scam going, aimed at people applying for H1-B visas. The Tolentinos simply weren't a part of that. If the victims connected the Tolentinos to the loans, the USAO would've picked that up and run with it. /end
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