Businessman sentenced for falsifying citizenship application - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Businessman sentenced for falsifying citizenship application

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Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2019 11:39 am

A federal judge sentenced a Brownsville man to time served plus 10 days for making a false statement or representation on his application to become a U.S. citizen.

George Z Rafidi, 43, who reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors, who dismissed multiple other charges against him Thursday morning, is pleased, his attorney, Reynaldo "Trey" Garza said after the hearing.

"We feel very bad for Mr. Rafidi. He's had to suffer from a past mistake," Garza said of Rafidi, a successful businessman who sold used cars, managed gas stations and owned bars. "We wish him the best and hope he can rebuild his life."

Garza, who spoke with Rafidi after the hearing, said the man admits his mistake.

Rafidi failed to disclose on the application the U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained him at an international bridge after he tried to leave the country without disclosing that he had more than $10,000, as required by law. Rafidi, who was not arrested during the incident, deals with large amounts of cash because of his businesses, Garza said during the sentencing hearing.

Late last month, Rafidi pleaded guilty in the 197th state District Court to one count of tampering with governmental records for falsifying a concealed handgun license by failing to disclose a conviction in Israel for being a member of the Popular Front, a Palestinian group the U.S. has designated as a terrorist organization.

He was sentenced to time served in that case as well and saw several charges dropped.

More than 20 years ago, Rafidi pleaded guilty to being a member of the Popular Front and to flying flags and writing prohibited slogans during protests against Israel's occupation of land in Palestine. He was shot in the chest by the Israeli military during the protests.

Israeli court documents state that Rafidi was a member of the Popular Front for only a short time and left the group of his own accord.

Rafidi, who has spent 450 days in jail, still faces immigration proceedings that will likely end in deportation, his attorney said during the hearing.

For more on this story, read Friday's Brownsville Herald.

mreagan@brownsvilleherald.com

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