Immigration agent, lawyer charged in pay-to-stay scheme

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit — A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent and a Metro Detroit attorney have been charged with bribery, conspiracy and obstruction of justice as part of an alleged pay-to-stay immigration scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.

The agent, 48-year-old Clifton L. Divers of Detroit, is accused of misusing his position to obtain multiple deferrals of deportation and other immigration benefits for non-citizen foreign nationals in return for more than $5,000 and free legal services, court documents show.

Divers was brought into U.S. District Court in Detroit on Thursday in handcuffs, with his wrists and legs shackled to a belly chain, by the U.S. Marshals Service.

According to an indictment unsealed on Thursday, Divers was charged with conspiring to impair, obstruct and defeat the lawful function of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security by dishonest means. He also is charged with destruction and falsification of records to obstruct an official investigation by the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The crimes allegedly occurred between 2009 and 2015 and carry maximum penalties of between five and 20 years.

His co-conspirator, Charles T. Busse, 58, of Birmingham, was charged by prosecutors with paying Divers to obtain deportation deferrals and other immigration benefits for his clients.

According to prosecutors, the scheme worked like this: Busse collected thousands of dollars from clients to obtain deferrals from the immigration agency, which is the act of postponing the removal of a non-citizen alien from the United States.

Deferrals are granted in increments of one year to allow a non-citizen alien to actively assist in an official law enforcement investigation, according to the indictment.

Busse allegedly fabricated information on alleged criminal activities for use as staged cooperation with the immigration agency, when the clients had no personal knowledge of the events, according to prosecutors.

Busse would tell his clients to provide the false information to federal law enforcement agents and conceal the fact that Busse had been retained as their attorney, the complaint alleges.

For his role in the scheme, Divers allegedly provided false information to the immigration agency to obtain deferrals of deportation and other immigrant benefits for clients of Busse.

In one case from 2009, Busse received $15,000 from an Albanian national who was subject to an order of deportation. Busse contacted Divers on behalf of the client asking for help.

Diver allegedly sent an email to an office at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that falsely stated the man was assisting in an official investigation.

Prosecutors said the man was not helping federal law enforcement, but because of Divers’ email, the man was not deferred for deportation or removal.

In another case, the family of a Mexican national, identified as MCS, paid Busse $10,000 for help. MCS was being held in custody by U.S. Homeland Security pending deportation.

Divers arranged for a one-year deferral for MCS after providing false information to his colleagues at the agency.

“Anyone who abuses a federal law enforcement position for personal profit can expect to face serious penalties, including criminal prosecution,” said U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade. who unsealed the charging documents on Thursday.

In court on Thursday, U.S. District Magistrate Judge David Grand entered a not-guilty plea on Divers’ behalf and released him on a $10,000 unsecured bond with conditions he not contact 34 individuals who are potential witnesses in the case.

As part of his bond conditions, Divers cannot travel outside the Eastern District of Michigan and must surrender his U.S. passport within 24 hours but has permission to travel to Ohio to see his daughter.

Prosecutors allege that on March 27, 2013, Divers destroyed official confidential informant records of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with an intent to impede the investigation.

Then on May 20, 2015, and again on Sept. 28, 2015, investigators allege Divers falsified agency records for two nationals with the intent of impeding the criminal investigation.

Khaalid Walls, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman, said Divers surrendered his service weapon and credentials to local management at the time the allegations were received in September 2015.

Since that time, Divers has worked only in a non-investigative administrative capacity, Walls said.

“ICE employees are held to the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct. The agency takes all allegations of employee misconduct very seriously and will respond appropriately based on the investigative findings. As the matter is ongoing, we are unable to elaborate further at this time,” Walls said.

Busse, who has offices in Rochester Hills and Dearborn, is expected to appear in court on Monday for arraignment on his case. His alleged crimes, which authorities say took place between 2009 and 2015, carry maximum penalties of between five and 15 years.

Busse was not immediately available for comment.

In 2001, Busse was indicted by a grand jury in Detroit on charges of bribery and extortion while he was a member of the Warren City Council and a trustee of the city’s employee retirement system in 1996-197.

The grand jury alleged Busse demanded money from Meadowbrook Securities after it became a designated broker of record for the retirement system. An employee of Meadowbrook allegedly paid Busse $1,000 in a restaurant bathroom in 1996.

Busse also allegedly accepted a trip to Windsor from the company in exchange for business from the city. Busse resigned from the council on April 18, 1997.

Busse was acquitted of all the charges by a jury in 2003.