LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A federal attorney who took nearly $500,000 in bribes from immigrants seeking to remain in the United States has been jailed for almost 18 years, authorities said on Monday.

United States District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr sentenced Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Chief Counsel Constantine Peter Kallas, 40, to 212 months in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney's office for the Central District of California, said in a news release.

Kallas was convicted in April last year on three dozen felony counts, including charges of bribery, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, aggravated identity theft and making false statements to obtain federal employee compensation, following a three week trial.

Over a five-year period, Kallas and his wife Maria, took at least $425,854 in bribes from immigrants, promising them "immigration benefits" in return, the statement said.

Among other scams, Kallas used his position as an immigration prosecutor to ask a judge to dismiss removal proceedings against an immigrant, and offered illegal immigrants "jobs" at companies he had set up with his wife.

"Mr. Kallas was entrusted to help immigrants abide by the law, but instead he enabled them in breaking the law, by greedily taking advantage of their desperation," Steven Martinez, assistant director with the FBI in Los Angeles, said in a statement.

"Today's lengthy sentence fits the significant crimes committed by Mr. Kallas and will undoubtedly deter others planning to abuse government power," he added.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Hatter ordered Kallas to pay $296,865 in restitution after fraudulently receiving worker's compensation benefits.

Maria Kallas pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bribery and conspiracy to commit money laundering charges, and is due to be sentenced on May 2.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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