Press Release - O’Neill Ventures, Inc., a tomato greenhouse and packing plant located in O’Neill entered a felony plea of guilty in federal court Wednesday to conspiracy to harbor undocumented immigrants.
The conspiracy to harbor undocumented immigrants relates to the earlier prosecution of Juan Pablo Sanchez-Delgado. The plea agreement requires O’Neill Ventures to pay a fine of $400,000 at sentencing. In addition, the corporation must allow Homeland Security Investigations to conduct reviews and inspections of their labor practices and hiring processes during a probationary term as outlined in the agreement. The maximum fine authorized by law for this offense is $500,000.
The corporation admits through the plea agreement to being in a conspiracy to employ and harbor undocumented immigrants with Juan Pablo Sanchez-Delgado since at least 2014. At Sanchez-Delgado’s sentencing hearing on November 27, 2019, Chief United States District Judge John M. Gerrard described Sanchez-Delgado’s financial exploitation of the workers at the tomato plant and other agricultural work sites as one of the “most egregious financial crimes,” that the judge had ever seen and proceeded to sentence Sanchez-Delgado to the maximum imprisonment time authorized by law, 120 months in federal prison. Restitution for those workers will be determined by Chief Judge Gerrard at a future date in time.
On August 8, 2018, agents and officers with Immigration and Customs Enforcement executed a search warrant at O’Neill Ventures, Inc., and found that undocumented workers comprised approximately 70% of the company’s work force on that date.
United States Attorney Joe Kelly further announced that John Charles Good, car salesman and owner of the La Herradura restaurant in O’Neill, entered a plea of guilty to aiding and abetting Sanchez-Delgado in his pattern and practice of unlawfully employing undocumented immigrants, and particularly for employing Magdalena Castro-Benitez, Sanchez-Delgado’s wife, at the La Herradura restaurant. Castro-Benitez, previously deported from the United States to Mexico, returned to the United States illegally before joining her husband’s conspiracy to harbor illegal immigrants. The charge carries a possible penalty of up to six months of incarceration, a fine of $3,000 per undocumented immigrant, and a term of supervised release of up to one year that could follow any term of incarceration.
Sentencing for O’Neill Ventures, Inc. and Good is set for May 29, 2020 before Chief Judge Gerrard.
This case was investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations.