Photo by Josh Reynolds
A former official for the US Department of Homeland Security was convicted today of encouraging her illegal immigrant housekeeper to remain in the country.
The verdict came more than a year after Lorraine Henderson, 52, was arrested on a federal charge and suspended without pay from her $140,000-a-year job as Boston port director for Customs and Border Protection.
After the verdict, Henderson left the courthouse in the company of about 10 family and friends. "I'm stunned,'' she said, before declining further comment.
Her attorney, Francis J. DiMento, was equally succinct. "I'm sick," he said.
On the stand last week, Henderson told jurors that she did not believe she had done anything wrong.
“I didn’t think we had the authority to ask her if she was legal,’’ Henderson testified.
It is not a crime to hire an illegal immigrant to perform occasional domestic work, but it is a felony to encourage or entice that person to stay in the United States.
Henderson testified she did not know that Fabiana Bitencourt, who is from Brazil, had paid $10,000 to be smuggled into the United States in the summer of 2001 when she hired her in March 2004 to clean her two-bedroom Salem condominium.
She said she paid Bitencourt $75 per cleaning about twice a month between 2004 and 2008, and referred her to a neighbor and co-worker.
After learning in early 2008 that Henderson employed Bitencourt, the neighbor reported her to their superiors, triggering an internal affairs investigation that led to Henderson’s
At the request of federal agents, Bitencourt said she showed up at Henderson’s home on Sept. 9, 2008, wearing a hidden body recorder and asked for help with an immigration issue.
Bitencourt testified earlier this month that she told Henderson she had come from Brazil, without a visa, seven years earlier.
“Wow,’’ said Henderson, according to the recording. “You can’t leave. Don’t leave . . . ’Cause once you leave, you will never come back.’’
Sentencing was set for June 17.
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