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Cooper gets 15 months

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

(Photo)
Former Missouri state representative Nathan Cooper left the Thomas Eagleton Federal courthouse in St. Louis on Monday after being sentenced to 15 months in prison for his part in an immigration fraud scheme.
(Tom Gannam ~ Associated Press)
ST. LOUIS -- As he waited for U.S. District Judge Jean C. Hamilton to take the bench for his sentencing Monday, former state representative Nathan Cooper rubbed his nose, fiddled with his glasses and received a pat on the back from a family member.

As he rose to take his place alongside defense attorney Joel Schwartz, Cooper wiped his face and bit his upper lip.

And after Hamilton handed down a sentence of 15 months in prison, a visibly shaken Cooper, his eyes puffy from fighting back tears and virtually unable to speak, left the courtroom surrounded by dozens of friends and family members.

During the brief court appearance -- the sentencing took about 10 minutes -- Cooper offered Hamilton an apology for his actions, which he acknowledged had disappointed his family, friends and clients.

In all, Hamilton sentenced Cooper to 15 months on each of the two counts of immigration fraud. She ordered the sentences to run concurrently and added a fine of $6,000. She allowed Cooper to remain free and await an order from the Federal Bureau of Prisons for a date and place to report for incarceration.

Under federal law, Cooper could receive up to 54 days off for good behavior for every year he is in prison, meaning he could be released in as little as 13 months after reporting. Hamilton ordered Cooper to serve two years of supervised release following his prison sentence.

The sentence handed down to the Cape Girardeau Republican represents about half of what both Schwartz and assistant federal prosecutor Jim Crowe had said was likely following Cooper's Aug. 9 guilty plea on the two felony counts. At that time, Crowe and Schwartz said sentencing guidelines indicated that Cooper would serve 30 to 37 months.

Before sentencing, Schwartz sought to portray Cooper's actions as well-intentioned mistakes. He told Hamilton that Cooper "did what he could to help those who need it."

And Cooper's paid a heavy price, Schwartz said. Cooper resigned his Missouri House seat Aug. 14, had his right to practice law in state courts suspended by the Missouri Supreme Court in August and had his federal licenses suspended by the U.S. District Court in October.

"Mr. Cooper has lost the two things most dear to him -- his political career and his legal career."

Crowe, however, portrayed Cooper as a sharp operator who disregarded the law as he cut corners for clients.

"This was a sophisticated effort by a sophisticated attorney to flaunt the immigration laws of this country," Crowe said.

Cooper, 34, specialized in immigration law, with offices in Cape Girardeau and St. Louis. In the court papers filed at the time of his guilty plea, and records filed in other cases, federal investigators detailed schemes in which Cooper set up shell companies to hide the true employers of foreign truck drivers.

Those drivers, many from Australia or New Zealand, were brought to the U.S. after Cooper obtained state certification of the need for foreign workers to take care of a seasonal surge in business. Those workers actually took permanent employment with companies that had little seasonal variation in need.

Cooper also admitted purchasing visa approvals for seasonal workers in the hospitality industry and using the documents to provide work to the truck drivers.

In a statement issued after the sentencing, first assistant Federal prosecutor Michael Reap said: "Cooper's actions were particularly offensive in that he also deceived the state of Missouri as part of his scheme while he was serving as a state representative."

As part of the deal for his August plea, Cooper agreed to pay $50,000 as a forfeiture of legal fees from the trucking companies he aided with the schemes. Cooper paid the $50,000 just before sentencing.

During the hearing, Hamilton noted that she had received "a number" of letters on Cooper's behalf and had reviewed them. She made no further comment on the letters except to say she would make them a part of the record in the case.

To assist in the collection of the fine, Hamilton ordered Cooper to provide any financial information requested by the federal probation office. Cooper has already made a full disclosure of his finances as part of his plea agreement.

Cooper asked to be assigned to the federal prison in Marion, Ill. Hamilton said she would include the request in the report to the Bureau of Prisons but noted it was up to the bureau to make a final decision. The prison, about nine miles south of Marion, is a medium-security institution with an adjacent satellite minimum security prison camp for male inmates.

Investigators opened the case in June 2004 -- two months before Cooper won the Republican primary for his first term as a state lawmaker -- based on tips received via fax and telephone. Investigators first approached Cooper at his law office Nov. 29, 2005, where Cooper admitted that truck drivers working for his legal clients had entered the country illegally and had entered or remained in the country on visas unrelated to the trucking industry.

Cooper cooperated with Immigration and Customs Enforcement following their visit. But a criminal case against Omega "Meg" Paulite, 36, a Philippine-born U.S. citizen, was dismissed in October. Paulite had been charged with a single felony count of immigration fraud for selling more than 100 approval notices for the entry of foreign workers to Cooper for $250 each.

Schwartz, Cooper's attorney, said Cooper was caught up in a scheme that had benefited others "long before Nathan came on the scene."

He also noted that none of the drivers Cooper assisted in entering the country are known to have committed any crimes while in the United States. "In my view, it is not what you visualize when you hear about immigration fraud."

Crowe, however, noted that instead of reporting to authorities that he was being asked to do something illegal, Cooper willingly joined in. "We didn't get any volunteering from Nathan Cooper that somebody was violating the law," he said.

Asked whether additional cases will be filed based on Cooper's conviction, Crowe added: "I am not at liberty to say."

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126


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The less than honorable Federal Judge Jean C. Hamilton was appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.

In light of the statement in the article, that both the defense, and the prosecutor thought that Republican Nathan Cooper would get 30, or, more months in a federal prison, this is just another case of a Republican appointee taking care of corrupt Republicans who get caught.

-- Posted by Brill on Tue, Dec 11, 2007, at 3:24 AM

I don't know that he got taken care of. Most were betting he would see no time, just probation & a fine. With all the political lime light, Looks like immigration laws have finally been taken A LITTLE more seriously.

-- Posted by mutt_jdr on Tue, Dec 11, 2007, at 6:43 AM

Jerry

I think you may be reading to much in to the judge's actions. We do not know the content of the letters she received on the defendant's behalf nor do we know the content of the letter setting out the extent of the defendant's "cooperation". As disappointed as I am with the sentence handed down I think it unfair to suggest there was some overt political pressure on Judge Hamilton to decide this sentence one way or the other. It would be nice to know the rationale though.

-- Posted by Tom_Grey on Tue, Dec 11, 2007, at 6:49 AM

Tell ya what Tom-Grey:

If Nathan Cooper turns around too fast,

your nose will get broke!Give it a rest and quit defending this CRIMINAL.This sentence was indeed political.By the way,I could care less what extent his cooperation was!he was found guilty in a court of law and his punishment was less then if someone was arrested for growing a marijuana plant for his own personal use!!What a fine example this Judge has set forth!NOT!!!

-- Posted by GREYWOLF on Tue, Dec 11, 2007, at 7:35 AM

"Cooper wiped his face and bit his upper lip."

Looks like he might be doing a little more lip biting in the next 15 months. Oh wait, he'll end up at the minimum security satellite prison next door.

This is more like a 15 month vacation!! He will spend a little time in a rich man's camp. After just enough time for everyone to forget about this whole deal, he'll be back to his old ways and probably making more money than before.

-- Posted by John R Cash on Tue, Dec 11, 2007, at 7:42 AM

so let me get this straight every republican appointed judge is bias, corrupt and untrustworthy? nice

For what he did Cooper got a fair sentence 15 months in any prison is not a vacation. Imagine having the money and freedom that Cooper did and then suddenly for the next year you have zero. That is no my idea of a vacation in any way.

He is done as a legislator and a lawyer. Because they are felonies that means he can never own a gun and I believe Mo still has the no felon voting rule.

He committed a crime, he plead guilty (unlike many others who defend themselves to the death) and will take his punishment.

He's not a murderer, a rapist or child molester. He is a white collar criminal who was/is a hypocrit of the highest order.

All of you jumping and saying he should have gotten years or wanted his head on a platter. Let's wait and see how you act when Rep. John Bowman (whom I believe never resigned his seat and is not pleading guilty like most of his co-conspirators) goes to trial what you all say. Here is a man who used his race and connections to get bank loans and credit cards via fraudulent minority business loans. How many hard working, upright minority citizens lost out on getting real loans because Bowman and other stole the money?

I want to see how harsh you all go on that one.

-- Posted by shane on Tue, Dec 11, 2007, at 9:20 AM

Okay, I've been sitting here for 5 minutes trying -- how do you bite your upper lip?!

-- Posted by imbrial on Tue, Dec 11, 2007, at 9:22 AM

Shane;

This Judge was!Oh how sad,he lost his job as a lawyer for ever(thank God)and he lost his Political career!So so sad!15 months in a minimum security club house for "White Collar criminals"!I suppose since he is white collar your Republican mind tells you he deserves better then say,A blue collar criminal!Typical Republican point of view!!

If this had happened to any other Attorney who did not hold a political office he would have gotten a much harsher punishment!Go ahead Shane,argue with that!

-- Posted by GREYWOLF on Tue, Dec 11, 2007, at 10:17 AM

15 months is 15 months..better then nothing, which is what I really thought that he would get. Interesting how the federal sentence guide is applied. Ron Mexico gets more then the guide, Vernon Vercose gets less..

-- Posted by semoredhawk on Tue, Dec 11, 2007, at 11:01 AM

Greywolf

I did not intend to defend our former republican representative though I was trying to give Judge Hamilton the benefit of the doubt. If you think I would defend him think again, or look at some of my comments about him from yesterday's story.

Put more specifically here, I am surprised that his indictment didn't include counts of public corruption or selling influence; of course that is pure conjecture based upon the legion of information about his clients and contributors receiving government appointments and fee offices.

-- Posted by Tom_Grey on Tue, Dec 11, 2007, at 11:17 AM

Governor Blunt has stated those that violate immigration laws should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Nathan Cooper broke Missouri laws that he is not being prosecuted for......Go figure!

-- Posted by Country_Boy on Tue, Dec 11, 2007, at 12:16 PM

Nathan Cooper will practice law again and will not serve the entire 15 month sentence. He will be pardoned by George W. upon W leaving office.

A Republican like Nahtan Cooper does not deserve to be treated like the criminal he is......

-- Posted by Country_Boy on Tue, Dec 11, 2007, at 12:20 PM

Hey Country Boy, what else does the Magic 8 ball say? Do you know if we'll have a white Christmas this year?

-- Posted by user Vast Right Wing Conspiracy on Tue, Dec 11, 2007, at 12:50 PM

Cooper's crimes sort of shoot a hole in the border fence argument he and his party rally behind. It's really getting hard to pinpoint the party's position on some of these issues.

I have a question on someone's post about were state laws broken? Did these front companies pay income taxes on these illegal receipts, withholding taxes, FICA, SSI etc? Was Mr. Cooper treated as any other small business would have been treated or did it just slip through the cracks? Was he treated in the same manner someone caught hauling illegals across the border would receive or is that the difference in white collar and regular Joe crimes?

-- Posted by HillBilly on Tue, Dec 11, 2007, at 1:17 PM

Tom-Grey,

Now your talking!I agree totaly with what you have said in your last post!Sorry Tom,

I did not read your previous post,my bad!

-- Posted by GREYWOLF on Tue, Dec 11, 2007, at 3:56 PM

Hey Country Boy! Open up a dictionary and define prosecution. Mr Cooper was PROSECUTED and CONVICTED for breaking federal laws.

There is no chance he will ever get his law license back and his reputation has been ruined forever. He is no threat to society at this point. He got what he deserved.

I love it when you left wing socialist wannabes jump on the media wagon of instant vilification when a Republican breaks the law. Are you as vocal when one of your beloved socialists does the same?

-- Posted by workin' them angels on Wed, Dec 12, 2007, at 8:05 AM

Workin them angels. Look up 'PARDON' I did not say his sentence would be commuted. I understand that PARDON may be above your vocabulary.

-- Posted by Country_Boy on Wed, Dec 12, 2007, at 9:58 AM

I am amazed this is all he was sentenced to. Don;t forget we have a missouri state rep who willingly and knowingly brought in foreign nationals illegally in this country.

-- Posted by interesting on Wed, Dec 12, 2007, at 3:36 PM

How much of a bet would you like to put on President Bush pardoning Mr Cooper? How about a grand says there is no way we will be pardoned.

What say you Country Hick?

-- Posted by workin' them angels on Wed, Dec 12, 2007, at 7:25 PM


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