Sierra Vista contractor fined $450,000; others got jail time
Probation for AZ man in illegal hiring case
Jacques Billeaud The Associated Press | Posted: Friday, March 30,
2012 12:00 am | Comments
A Southern Arizona contractor who pleaded guilty to knowingly hiring
illegal immigrants was sentenced to probation Thursday in the first
case in the state in which authorities pursued criminal charges
instead of just fines against an employer in an illegal hiring case.
Ivan Hardt, owner of Sun Dry Wall & Stucco Inc. of Sierra Vista, was
sentenced in Tucson by U.S. District Judge Raner Collins to one year
of probation for the misdemeanor conviction.
Hardt, 49, also had pleaded guilty last year to the misdemeanor
charge and a felony charge of conspiring to harbor illegal
immigrants, but the felony charge will be dismissed if he pays the
government $450,000. That figure consists of $225,000 to cover
proceeds that the company received during the time the illegal
immigrants were employed there and another $225,000 to settle a civil
dispute with the government over its payment to its legal and illegal
Hardt's attorney, Michael Piccarreta, said his client has already
paid $300,000 and plans to square up the debt before an October
The March 2007 bust of Hardt's business represented a new approach by
federal authorities in Arizona that focused on criminal cases against
company officials. Some violators viewed the previous strategy of
seeking only civil penalties as the cost of doing business.
Now, people who hire illegal immigrants could face jail time, which
authorities hope will be a stronger deterrent.
"No one would want to go through what Mr. Hardt has been through in
the last five years," Piccarreta said. "And I think the sentence is a
reflection that he accepted responsibility and immediately took steps
to make sure that that would never happen again. He also had a severe
Piccarreta said the violations occurred when Arizona's construction
boom was still in effect and employers such as Hardt had difficulty
finding enough workers to cover all their contractual obligations.
Hardt's sentence should serve as a warning to other employers, said
Matthew Allen, chief of investigations for U.S. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement in Arizona.
"Hiring unlawful workers not only fuels illegal immigration and
perpetuates a shadow economy, but it negatively impacts job
opportunities for our nation's lawful workforce," Allen said in a
written statement, noting that immigration agents will continue to
work with prosecutors to investigate and prosecute such cases.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for Arizona, which prosecuted the case,
had no immediate comment on Hardt's sentence.
Hardt had no previous criminal record and he and his office manager
have since attended classes held by federal immigration authorities
in an effort to ensure that his business is following immigration and
employment laws, Piccarreta said.
Authorities alleged that Sun Dry Wall & Stucco underreported its
number of employees to federal inspectors and that some workers were
found to have fraudulent work documents.
They also said the company's management was constantly on the lookout
for undercover immigration agents and that the company's president
and one of its foremen used two-way radios to communicate about the
whereabouts of immigration agents. If officers were coming,
supervisors would move the illegal workers to another site, or tell
them to hide.
Of the eight people from Sun Dry Wall & Stucco who were charged in
the case, six have pleaded guilty.
Office manager Carol Hill was sentenced to two months in jail and
three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to conspiracy
to harbor illegal immigrants and knowingly hiring at least 10 illegal
immigrants. Her plea deal said she knew those employees were illegal
immigrants when she hired them.
Jose A. Gutierrez Tapia, the foreman in charge of stucco crews,
pleaded guilty to knowingly hiring at least 10 illegal immigrants and
was sentenced to two months in jail and three years of supervised
Three other company employees pleaded guilty to conspiracy to
knowingly hiring and employing illegal immigrants. Two were sentenced
to three years of probation, while the third was sentenced to time
served and 60 days of home confinement with electronic monitoring.
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