In the first litigation of its kind, in 2008 IRLI sued slumlords under the federal racketeering (RICO) statute, alleging that the landlords’ conduct constituted a pattern of violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1324, the “alien smuggling” statute, which makes harboring, sheltering or encouraging an illegal alien a felony. Violation of 1324 for financial gain is also a predicate act under RICO.
In the initial proceedings, Mocci et al v. Connolly properties et al., IRLI represented Maribel Mocci, a leasing agent who was directed to steer citizens, legal immigrants, and illegal aliens to different apartment buildings owned by the landlord defendant, and Robert Bolmer, a holdover resident of one of the defendant’s properties.
The defendants purchased dilapidated buildings in northern New Jersey at bargain prices, and then managed them, without renovating or maintaining the buildings to code. The primary technique was to lease apartments to illegal aliens, greatly boosting profits. By segregating the illegal aliens in the most dilapidated buildings, the defendant believed that illegal aliens would not complain about code violations for fear of interacting with authorities.
The defendant slumlords employed Ms. Mocci as an apartment leasing agent. While performing her duties, Ms. Mocci noticed that the defendants were renting apartments to illegal aliens which constituted harboring. When Ms. Mocci confronted the defendants about these issues, the defendants retaliated against Mocci for her refusal to participate in their illegal activities.
Ultimately, the defendants settled with Ms. Mocci. The District Court for New Jersey granted the landlords’ motion to dismiss Mr. Bolmer’s claim as an aggrieved tenant on the ground that renting apartments, without additional acts to directly conceal the aliens from investigating immigration agents, did not constitute criminal harboring or sheltering. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal. Despite conflicting case law from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari.
IRLI Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Define Harboring and Inducing Immigration Crimes, May 28, 2012