Bernard Gari
Bernard Gari

How Long Could a Child Molester Dupe U.S. Immigration Officials?

In theory, U.S. immigration officials only allow foreigners with good morals to become citizens, but in 1989 Mexican Bernard Gari beat the system.

In the months leading up to his citizenship, Gari sexually molested two Orange County kids under the age of 14 and kept that ugly fact a secret from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

It took nearly two decades, but justice finally found Gari in April 2010.

That's when federal immigration officials discovered that the Garden Grove man had confessed to the 1989 sex crimes in a 1993 plea deal that detailed 10 acts of molestation and sent him to prison for six years.

With federal agents closing in on his ass, Gari filed an August 2010 motion in Orange County Superior Court to withdraw his 17-year-old guilty plea on the grounds that he suddenly realized he'd mistakenly admitted to committing sex crimes prior to gaining his citizenship. If he'd known his admissions would jeopardize his immigration status, he wouldn't have pleaded guilty, he argued in hindsight.

Superior Court Judge Brett G. London granted Gari's motion, but District Attorney Tony Rackauckas refused to concede defeat. Rackauckas got a state appellate court panel to reverse London's ruling. No quitter, Gari appealed to the California Supreme Court. In December, the high court announced it wasn't interested.

The case ultimately landed in the hands of U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney, who didn't allow the matter to reach a trial. This month, Carney determined that the record of Gari's sex crimes and deceit is clear. He gave federal immigration officials a summary judgement decision.

Upshot: Gari has lost his citizenship.

Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >