Head of harboring scheme in O’Neill sentenced to federal prison

Local News

O’NEILL, Neb. (KCAU) – The final defendant of the O’Neill harboring case was sentenced to federal prison on June 30.

United States Attorney Joe Kelly announced that the last of the 15 individual defendants from Juan Pablo Sanchez-Delgado’s scheme to harbor and exploit illegal and undocumented workers in O’Neill and elsewhere was sentenced to federal prison on Tuesday.

The stepson of Sanchez-Delgado, Antonio de Jesus Castro, was sentenced by Chief United States District Judge John M. Gerrard to four months’ imprisonment and one year of probation.

According to the court, Castro was shown leniency due to the fact that Sanchez-Delgado put his stepson in the position of running the conspiracy when Sanchez-Delgado fled to Las Vegas to hide from authorities.

According to recent documents, all 15 defendants were initially taken into custody on August 8, 2018, following the simultaneous execution of dozens of search warrants at worksite locations across Nebraska and Minnesota, and at Sanchez-Delgado’s personal residences in Las Vegas.

Sanchez-Delgado defrauded federal and state governments and undocumented workers out of millions of dollars in a conspiracy that ran for years out of O’Neill.

Testimony at the trial showed that Sanchez-Delgado took money from the undocumented workers’ paychecks, shorted them on the hours they worked, and kept their income tax withholdings and Social Security and Medicare withholdings from their paychecks for himself instead of paying that money in the state and federal taxation authorities.

The conspiracy as a whole was responsible for harboring and exploiting hundreds of undocumented workers over the last decade according to officials.

Agents with Homeland Security Investigations seized more than $138,000 in illegal proceeds of the conspiracy from Sanchez-Delgado’s bank accounts, concealed in the names of one or more of his co-conspirators on August 8, 2018.

The United States Attorney’s Office obtained forfeiture of Sanchez-Delgado’s Las Vegas home with a combined gross value of approximately $1.7 million.

Chief Judge Gerrard indicated at earlier sentencing hearings that he also intends to award the undocumented workers restitution for the wages that Sanchez-Delgado took from them during the conspiracy.

The final order of restitution will be entered at later date.

Agents also encountered more than 100 undocumented workers employed by Sanchez-Delgado and his co-conspirators on August 8, 2018.

According to recent documents, many more undocumented workers have come forward since seeking restitution for unpaid wages.

Chief Judge Gerrard described the conspiracy as “one of the most egregious financial crimes,” that he had observed.

Gerrard also previously sentenced Sanchez-Delgado to the maximum allowable time by statute, 120 months’ imprisonment, and a $150,000 fine. The fine is in addition to the assets and cash that Sanchez-Delgado was ordered to forfeit to the United States.

Sanchez-Delgado’s wife, Magdalena Castro-Benitez, was also previously sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment for serving as Sanchez-Delgado’s “money manager”.
Both Sanchez-Delgado and Castro-Benitez were ordered to serve a three-year term of supervised release following their prison sentences.

Sanchez-Delgado and his wife conducted more than $9 million in financial transactions with the money generated by the conspiracy, and they received more than $5 million from labor contracts with agricultural businesses like O’Neill Ventures, LLC, the first company to partner with Sanchez-Delgado at the inception of the conspiracy and a tomato plant located in O’Neill.

The company pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to harbor aliens and was ordered to pay a $400,00 fine for its role in the conspiracy.

A human resources officer for the tomato plant, Mayra Jimenez, was convicted for her participation in the conspiracy and for her efforts to aid Sanchez-Delgado in harboring undocumented workers at the plant by a jury at trial in November 2019.

Jimenez was sentenced to 12 weekends of jail and six months of house arrest, along with three years of probation and a $500 fine.

United States Attorney Kelly lauded the efforts of Homeland Security Investigations and Assistant United States Attorney Lesley Woods for their unique and innovative approach to this investigation that included the use of a wiretap and focusing on the arrests of the illegal enterprise.

United States Attorney Kelly also noted that this was not a typical harboring case.

This investigation and prosecution targeted an individual who gathered great wealth by exploiting some of the most vulnerable people with his co-conspirators.

The workers involved in this case worked long hours under harsh conditions without the benefit of overtime compensation and in the end, had parts of their wages withheld for the additional benefit of the illegal enterprise.

This case was investigated by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations.

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