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An immigration officer in Southern California has been indicted on charges that she took bribes in cash and egg rolls from immigrants seeking citizenship and green cards.
Mai Nhu Nguyen, 47, of Irvine, was indicted by a grand jury Wednesday on three counts of solicitation of a bribe by a public official, reports the Associated Press.
But how do they know it was a bribe?
Tasty, but Troublesome
Bribery is the offer or acceptance of anything of value in exchange for influence on a government/public official or employee. Bribes can take the form of gifts or payments of money in exchange for favorable treatment, such as property, various goods, privileges, services and other favors.
Nguyen worked as an officer for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Santa Ana, where she reviewed immigrants' applications for benefits.
Prosecutors say Nguyen took 200 egg rolls from a citizenship applicant and received $1,000 and $2,200 bribes from two other immigrants since 2011.
So in this case, a (famished) government employee allegedly took egg rolls or money in exchange for favorable treatment on immigrants' applications for benefits.
Government Gift-Giving Rules
This crazy idea may be really out there, but...: What if the egg rolls were just gifts? Unfortunately for Nguyen, the government also restricts the ability of its employees to accept gifts from outside sources.
Typically, modest refreshments aren't a problem. Among these are soft drinks, coffee, donuts and other tasty treats "offered other than as part of a meal," according to the Justice Department.
So one egg roll is probably OK. Two hundred egg rolls, however, seems to be pushing it both from a caloric and legal standpoint.
As a general rule of thumb, a federal employee can't accept your "gift" if it's meant to influence the employee (that would be corrupt intent). In Nguyen's case, she could face punishment if it's proven that she was influenced by the warm, savory appetizers.
It's also a problem if the egg rolls were worth more than $20. That's because employees may accept unsolicited gifts with a market value of $20 or less per occasion; but in the aggregate, those gifts can't exceed $50 in a calendar year.
Details are sparse on exactly how Nguyen was caught. Maybe they found a few crumbs?
Regardless, the egg-roll giver could be on the
slotted spoon hook for bribery, too. In most situations, both the person offering the bribe and the person accepting it can be charged with bribery.
Now there's some food for thought.
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