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U.S. immigration worker who stole from inmates sentenced to 57 months

The Associated Press

DETROIT- A former federal employee charged with stealing money, jewelry and at least $308,000 (euro250,900) in cash from nearly 500 illegal immigrants awaiting deportation was sentenced to 57 months in prison.

Patrick M. Wynne, 33, of Milan, Michigan, pleaded guilty to embezzlement in July 2005. In addition to the maximum allowable prison term, U.S. District Judge Julian A. Cook Jr. ordered Wynne to pay $450,000 (euro366,540) in restitution, U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy said.

Wynne was accused of committing the thefts while working at the Monroe County Jail, where illegal immigrants are housed by the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement division and its predecessor, the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Stolen property included jewelry, clothing, suitcases, family photos and religious items. The $308,000 (euro250,900) was taken from 479 detainees between 2000 and 2004. Two FBI investigators spent months to determine what was taken.

Cook also ordered Wynne to pay the Homeland Security department $157,000 (euro127,880) _ the estimated cost of locating deported immigrants and returning the stolen items and cash, The Detroit News reported in Tuesday editions.

Hundreds of other items remain in storage, awaiting return to their rightful owners in Africa, Asia, Central America and Europe.

The case came to light after immigrants began complaining when they could not get their property back after they were released from the detention facility.

A search of Wynne's home, garage, storage locker, government vehicles and office at the jail turned up luggage, backpacks and more than 100 government property bags, many of them containing immigrants' photos, letters, Bibles and other possessions. Wynne had neglected to throw the items away after rifling the luggage and bags for cash, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Wynne was suspended with pay in June 2004 and resigned five months later.

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