A Sampson County attorney was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in New Bern. Sarah Jane Brinson, 34, of Clinton was sentenced by United States District Judge Louise W. Flanagan to three months in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release, for the crime of harboring an alien.
On June 4, 2019, Brinson pleaded guilty to a criminal charge that she encouraged and induced an alien to reside in the United States, knowing that residing in the United States was illegal. Pursuant to the terms of the plea agreement leading to her guilty plea, Brinson surrendered her law license to the North Carolina State Bar and forfeited $5,000.
According to Court records, Homeland Security Investigations initiated an inquiry into Sarah Brinson, a licensed attorney and notary public in North Carolina, following her defense of an alien in state court. The representation included appearing before a district court judge to enter a prayer for judgment on behalf of an alien while knowing the person was assuming the identity of a United States citizen.
In the meantime, Brinson represented the same alien in immigration proceedings under the alien’s real name without disclosing the alien’s use of another name. She also notarized the alien’s signature under the assumed name in connection with North Carolina state court proceedings, while knowing that was not the alien’s true name.
And from December 2011 to August 2014, Brinson hired an illegal alien to work at her law firm knowing the employee was unlawfully present in the United States.
Robert J. Higdon, Jr., United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina said, “Misconduct by a member of the Bar – and officer of the Court – is particularly troubling and poses a grave threat to the administration of our civil and criminal justice systems. The prosecution of this defendant, an attorney, is critical if we are to maintain the integrity of our legal system. And, here, the prosecution itself, even more than the actual sentence, sends a message throughout the legal system that we expect lawyers to be honest and reliable or face the consequences of their misconduct.”
“This individual had no regard for our nation’s laws. She blatantly hired and harbored an individual illegally present in the United States and willingly represented an alien who was using someone else’s identity,” said Ronnie Martinez, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Charlotte. “HSI’s investigative work through the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force ensured this attorney can no longer practice law in North Carolina.”
The Document Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF) in the Eastern District of North Carolina investigated this case. The DBFTF is led by Homeland Security Investigations, in partnership with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and various other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.