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Akwesasne man sentenced to year in federal custody for alien smuggling

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AKWESASNE — An Akwesasne man was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court, Utica, to a year in federal custody for his role in smuggling undocumented aliens into the United States from Canada through the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation.

Ian R.E. Tarbell, 41, also was ordered to undergo three additional years of supervision upon his release after pleading guilty June 25 to bringing aliens to the United States. According to a plea agreement filed with the court, Tarbell went to a Canadian portion of the reservation and met with a person who hired him to transport undocumented aliens from there to the Walmart parking lot in Massena. He then took the aliens in his truck to the lot without passing through any port of entry for inspection.

John Benedict and his wife, Angela Johnson, both of St. Regis Village, Que., have pleaded guilty to charges they took part in the conspiracy. Benedict was sentenced Feb. 7 to two years in prison, while Johnson is due to be sentenced May 7.

According to court documents, the couple allowed their home, which is on the so-called Canadian side of the transborder reservation, to be used as a way station for aliens entering the country from Canada. Undocumented aliens from Poland and other countries were brought by co-conspirators to Cornwall, Ont., and then transported by boat or snowmobile across the St. Lawrence River to the residence shared by Benedict and Johnson.

In late February 2013, Johnson and other alleged conspirators transported eight aliens on two snowmobiles across the river to her home. The aliens either rode on the snowmobiles or were towed behind the machines on sleds, according to court documents. Upon arrival in St. Regis Village, the aliens were transferred to an alleged conspirator who drove them by vehicle to Massena.

According to court documents, the conspiracy came to light Feb. 24, 2013 when U.S. Border Patrol agents observed a white Mitsubishi Galant “warranting elevated suspicion” because it was “making numerous movements” around the Walmart parking lot in Massena with no one getting in or out.

A white Cadillac Escalade pulled into the lot and parked next to the Galant, with four people getting out of the Escalade and into the back seat of the Galant. An agent followed the Galant containing six people onto Route 420 before halting it and finding several undocumented aliens inside.

Dariusz Podgajny, a Polish national, and Oleh Solomon, a Ukraine citizen, admitted to their roles in the smuggling activity. Solomon was sentenced Feb. 21 to an unspecified amount of time served, and Podgajny is due to be sentenced Thursday.

Two Polish nationals pleaded guilty in July to re-entering the United States without permission after having been deported and were sentenced to about five months’ time served in federal custody. They also were ordered deported.

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