BANGOR, Maine — A South Portland man who took on Wal-Mart and the former DeCoster Egg Farm in Turner on behalf of Latino workers was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury on five counts, including transporting and harboring illegal aliens.
Benjamin J. Guiliani Sr., 63, also was indicted on charges of Social Security fraud, tax evasion, failure to file a corporate tax return, and student assistance fraud.
The longtime advocate for migrant workers and immigration rights is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 28 in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
In December 2006, agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided Guiliani’s South Portland home and seized computers and boxes of evidence, according to a story previously published in the Bangor Daily News.
“I do not know the government’s intentions,” Guiliani said at the time of the raid. “I don’t know the government’s reasoning. I don’t want to say they have a vendetta against me because of my outspokenness, but that may be the case.”
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined Thursday to comment on the case. It is the practice of federal prosecutors in Maine not to comment on pending cases.
Bruce Merrill, Guiliani’s Portland attorney, said Friday that his client would enter a not guilty plea and “vigorously fight the charges.”
Merrill also said that it was too early in the process to comment further on the case.
“We have to wait and see what the discovery material from the government reveals,” he said.
Guiliani is a U.S. citizen of Mexican descent, according to earlier reports. He once headed the Maine Migrant Workers Advocacy Group and has been an outspoken critic of immigration policy enforcement tactics. He was involved in winning discrimination lawsuits in Maine during the late 1990s against Wal-Mart and the De-Coster Egg Farm in Turner, according to federal court records.
His consulting firm, Azteca Consulting Associates Inc., was hired in 2003 by Maine Employers’ Mutual Insurance Co., or MEMIC, of Augusta to translate a van safety course into Spanish. The safety course was a result of the Sept. 12, 2002, crash of a 15-passenger van in northern Maine that killed 14 Hispanic woods workers.
Guiliani and migrant workers on April 21, 2005, presented Gov. John Baldacci with a United Farm Workers union flag and sombrero, according to The Associated Press. The group also serenaded the governor in Spanish. Later that year, Guiliani was one of eight Mainers nominated by U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe as Senate Hispanic leadership nominees, according to a press release issued by the senator’s office.
The indictment charges that beginning in 2004 and continuing until December 2006, Guiliani transported and harbored illegal aliens for “commercial advantage and private financial gain.” It also alleges that he provided at least one illegal alien with a fake Social Security number.
Guiliani, according to the indictment, earned more than $100,000 in taxable income in 2005 but did not report his total income or pay taxes on it. The indictment alleges that Guiliani tried to hide his assets by using the corporate account of Azteca Consulting Associates to conceal personal expenditures and transferring real estate to his wife’s name, among other things, in committing tax fraud.
He also was indicted on charges of failing to file a corporate tax return for 2004 and fraudulently obtaining financial aid from the U.S. Department of Education for a child’s college expenses by lying about his and his wife’s incomes.
If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in federal prison on the charge of transporting and harboring aliens, up to five years for the charges of Social Security fraud, tax evasion and student assistance fraud, and up to a year in prison on the charge of failure to file a tax return. The potential fines in the case range from $100,000 to $250,000.
Guiliani also could be ordered to pay back taxes along with interest and penalties to the Internal Revenue Service and all or a portion of the money his child received from the U.S. Department of Education and the Maine Department of Education.
One reason the case might have been filed in Bangor is if the people Guiliani is accused of transporting or harboring were dropped off at a location in northern Maine that regularly hires migrant workers.
Another possible reason for the case being filed in Bangor is that U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby, who presided over the DeCoster case and is based in Portland, would have to recuse himself from Guiliani’s criminal case. U.S. District Judge John Woodcock will handle the case in Bangor.