Irate Judge Throws Book at Smuggler

John P. Martin, Star-Ledger (Newark), Mar. 23

Seething over what he saw as a lackluster acknowledgment of a serious crime, a judge sentenced a former federal immigration inspector yesterday to 7 1/2 years in prison for smuggling at least 100 illegal aliens past airport security checkpoints in Newark and Baltimore.

U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh also ordered Otis Rackley to begin his term immediately instead of letting him surrender in a few weeks, a courtesy often given to defendants on bail.

The punishment, more than two years longer than the sentence prosecutors recommended, stunned Rackley and his attorney, Anthony J. Fusco Jr., who had expected a prison term half as long. It also reflected the judge’s exasperation with the defendant’s attitude and with a wave of immigration crimes he said had become of the “most troubling” issues for the courts and the country.

“Who knows what happened to all these illegals—where they are and what they are doing,” Cavanaugh said.

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As a senior inspector for what was then the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Rackley wore a gun and a badge and was supposed to protect the borders.

But for nearly three years, prosecutors said, he did the opposite: For between $2,000 and $5,000, Rackley escorted illegal immigrants from airplanes and past checkpoints at Newark Liberty International and Baltimore-Washington International airports. He admitted helping smuggle at least 100 aliens—mostly Indian nationals—that way, even after Sept. 11, 2001, and said he helped hundreds of others get passport stamps to stay here.

Five other people, including another immigration inspector, have pleaded guilty to related charges in the case. Prosecutors said Rackley, 41, who moved from Perth Amboy to Pennsylvania two years ago, lived a lavish lifestyle, but that he never accounted for all of the cash.

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