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Grosse Pointe attorney sentenced in immigration case

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

A Grosse Pointe attorney was sentenced Friday to 18 months in prison for providing false information to the Immigration Court, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.

David Wenger was accused of repeatedly concealing a criminal record of a client the government was trying to remove from the United States.

“Immigration fraud represents a significant breach of the integrity of our immigration system and is particularly disturbing when it’s committed by an officer of the court,” Department of Homeland Security Special Agent in Charge Marlon Miller said in a statement. “This sentence ensures that the defendant will now answer for his intentional and gross pattern of abuse of the public trust.”

In 2013, Wenger filed an application to allow his client to stay in the country but left out a conviction “that would have made it very unlikely that he could remain in this country,” authorities said in a statement Friday.

At a related court hearing not long after, “Wenger claimed falsely that he had disclosed his client’s entire criminal record,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “Prior to the hearing Wenger coached the client and the client’s family members to conceal the client’s prior conviction while they testified.”

The attorney called the relatives and his client as witnesses, then had each testify falsely to match those instructions, officials said. However, “the scheme unraveled during the government’s cross-examination of the client, during which the client confessed to his full criminal history and explained that Wenger had instructed him to lie,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said

Before sentencing Wenger on Friday, U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland said the 70-year-old’s actions were among “the most serious crimes a lawyer can commit in connection with his profession” as well as “outrageous behavior demanding a sentence of incarceration.”

In the statement Friday, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said: “Our immigration court system relies on lawyers to present truthful information so that judges can make informed decisions about the cases before them. This lawyer committed a very significant violation of the law when he presented false testimony to the Immigration Court to conceal his client’s prior conviction.”