INS Officer accused of demanding money, sex for asylum

LOS ANGELES - Two Chinese women who were seeking political asylum accused an Immigration and Naturalization Service officer of demanding money and sex in exchange for approval of their applications.

Lu Xue, 35, accused officer Thomas Powell of demanding money, fondling her and trying to remove her clothes at her Monterey Park home.

In a damage claim filed Friday with the Justice Department, Xue said she refused Powell's advances. He became angry and threatened to reject her bid for asylum, she said.

Five days later, she received notice that her application was denied.

The other woman, who was not identified, said Powell came to her Los Angeles apartment June 4, and said her application could be approved if she gave him $2,000. She said in her damage claim that ''improperly and offensively touched her on sensitive parts of her body.''

She said he visited her again four days later and made sexual advances.

Douglas G. Ingraham, an attorney representing the two woman, said he feared disclosure of the second woman's name might jeopardize a pending hearing on her asylum petition.

Calls to the INS in Los Angeles in hopes of contacting Powell went unanswered Saturday. A telephone operator said the home phone number for a Thomas Powell in Los Angeles was unlisted at his request.

Powell has been on administrative leave since June 13 pending the outcome of an investigation, INS officials said, declining to comment on the allegations. Ingraham claimed Powell is the target of a federal criminal probe, but the U.S. attorney's office would not confirm whether an investigation was underway.

Both women are seeking $10 in million damages from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, charging they were subjected to sexual battery, extortion and emotional distress. The administrative claims are a first step before they can file a lawsuit against Powell and the government.


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