Posted on October 26, 2004

Immigration Official Under Investigation

Brian D. Crecente, Rocky Mountain News (Denver), Oct. 23

The top immigration official for Colorado, Wyoming and Utah is under federal investigation for allegedly having a relationship with the estranged wife of a man his agency is seeking to deport.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Northwest Region would not discuss the details of the investigation of Mario Ortiz, the district director for the agency.

“There are allegations against (Ortiz) that are being investigated,” Sharon Rummery said Friday. “Anytime we receive allegations, we are going to launch an internal investigation. We take all allegations seriously.”

The case involves an acrimonious divorce between Jon Vaupel, a 42-year-old Australian national, and his American wife, Stacy Schwab, 41.

The two married in Australia in 2002 and moved to the Denver-area in late 2003.

Schwab sponsored her husband when he applied to become a resident alien.

But in April, the couple got into an argument while Vaupel was holding their toddler son and Schwab was arrested for misdemeanor domestic violence and child abuse.

She later pleaded guilty to a charge of harassment by striking, shoving or kicking and was ordered into a one-year diversion program.

Schwab could not be reached for comment Friday.

Vaupel says Schwab never forgave him for calling police and vowed she would get even with him, according to an immigration petition.

According to court records, Vaupel was arrested two months later for forgery, assault and harassment.

He says the charges are trumped up. The case has not yet gone to trial.

Over the next few months, Schwab filed several complaints against Vaupel, two of which were unfounded, according to police reports.

In July, Vaupel filed for divorce and got visitation rights for his son, but Schwab failed to bring the boy to several of the appointments, according to immigration records.

Vaupel hired a private investigator to follow his wife and the investigator claims to have seen Schwab staying at Ortiz’s home on at least one occasion.

Elizabeth Higgins, one of Vaupel’s attorneys, said she has pictures taken by the investigator that corroborate that claim.

One picture, Higgins said, shows Schwab and Ortiz carrying bags from Schwab’s car in front of Ortiz’s home. Another shows Ortiz leaning into Schwab’s car, as if to kiss her.

In a divorce court hearing, Schwab said she had met with Ortiz, but that the meetings were purely professional.

In July, Schwab withdrew her sponsorship of Vaupel — which would lead to his being deported. The letter granting the petition for withdrawal was signed by Ortiz.

On Oct. 12, Vaupel went to the Jefferson County Courthouse for a pretrial conference in the criminal case against him and was picked up by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

He is now being held at the Immigration Detention Facility in Adams County.

Vaupel’s attorneys say they are concerned about Ortiz’s alleged relationship with Schwab and what they say is an accelerated effort to deport their client.

“Possibly it’s just coincidence, but it certainly doesn’t seem coincidental to me,” Higgins said of the speed with which the immigration case is being handled.

“ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) won’t allow Mr. Vaupel to have a hearing, they won’t tell him if and when he’s going to be deported, they are obviously aware of the significant irregularities if not corruption involving his care, and yet they continue to detain him,” Higgins said.

Mark O’Regan, who heads the Australian Consulate in Denver, said he is keeping an eye on the case, but is not allowed, under Australian law, to comment on it.