ICE detains Ecuadorean bankers convicted of multimillion-dollar bank embezzlement

Former Ecuadorean bankers William and Roberto Isaías, two brothers who fled to Miami after being charged with embezzling millions from one of Ecuador’s biggest banks, have been arrested by U.S. immigration officials and await possible deportation.

The men were detained for an alleged violation of U.S. immigration law. They were sent to an immigration detention center “pending removal proceedings,” the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency told el Nuevo Herald.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations said they arrested the brothers in Miami on Feb. 13.

“Both men were then transferred to ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations and are presently in agency custody pending removal proceedings,” ICE said in an email.

The Ecuadorean government has sought their extradition for years. The fugitive brothers, who have been living in Miami since 2000, were convicted in absentia in 2014 of embezzling more than $660 million from Filanbanco, once one of Ecuador’s largest banks.

Their lawyer, Jorge Zavala, confirmed by telephone from Ecuador that the brothers face possible deportation because of an alleged violation of their immigration status, but that he’s waiting for a court hearing to clarify the details of the case. 

“They have started a process because of an alleged violation of the Isaíases’ immigration status, and today we’re waiting to learn the date of a hearing before the director of the immigration office, so that we can show that the Isaíases are in compliance with immigration requirements,” Zavala said.

Zavala said that the brothers have valid U.S. work visas. Their problem, he added, may have been sparked by a new U.S. immigration regulation issued in late 2018 “related to the criminal records” of immigrants in their home countries.

The country’s Constitutional Court is considering their appeal, their lawyer said, so their case should be considered open.

“The Isaíases’ status as innocent remains untouched,” Zavala added. “That will be our position (at the U.S. hearing), that the criminal record has not been finalized in Ecuador.”

U.S. immigration laws establish several reasons for deportations, among them felony convictions in the United States or in the immigrant’s home country after the immigrants have entered the United States. In fact, immigrants with past criminal convictions accounted for 74 percent of all arrests made by ICE in fiscal 2017, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.

John De la Vega, an immigration attorney who is not involved in the Isaías case, told el Nuevo Herald that the average deportation process takes 12 to 14 months, if the immigrant is not detained. But if the immigrant is detained and is denied bond, the process can take just three to four months.

Zavala said the brothers may have been detained now — five years after their conviction in Ecuador — because of a complaint “by some enemy, some former employee, bothering the Isaíases with this criminal record we mentioned.”

In 2014, an Ecuadorean court sentenced the Isaías brothers to eight years in prison for bank embezzlement linked to troubles at Filanbanco in 1998. Prosecutors said after their sentencing that the brothers should serve their full sentences because they were “responsible for the multimillion-dollar losses” at the bank, sparking the country’s financial crisis in 1998, which lasted until 2001.

Filanbanco was one of 30 financial entities seized by the Ecuadorean government. The collapse of Filanbanco led to a run on Ecuadorean banks, leading to a liquidity crisis in the country. The government also seized several other companies owned by the Isaías brothers, including TV and news media outlets.

The brothers claim the bank was solvent when the government took it over. The Ecuadorean National Court determined the brothers falsified the bank’s financial statements.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee in 2016 found the Ecuador government guilty of violating the Isaías brothers’ civil rights and accused then President Rafael Correa’s regime of illegally seizing their property.

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Republished by the Law Office of Scott A. Ferris, P.A.