Maine advocate admits harboring illegal immigrants

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Posted May 25, 2010, at 9:17 p.m.

BANGOR — A South Portland man hailed for his work with immigrants pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court to transporting and harboring illegal aliens, tax evasion, Social Security fraud, failure to file tax returns and fraudulently obtaining financial aid for his college-age son.

Benjamin J. Guiliani Sr., 63, remains free on personal recognizance bail.

He is a Mexican-American born in El Paso, Texas. He has lived in Maine for about 30 years and earned a reputation in the 1990s as a leading voice for the ethical treatment of migrant workers.

His sentencing date has not been set.

Guiliani was indicted in January by the federal grand jury in Bangor. He pleaded not guilty to the charges on March 18 in U.S. District Court in Portland.

His attorney, Bruce Merrill of Portland, explained after Tuesday’s 40-minute hearing that Guiliani decided to change his plea “after thoroughly reviewing all the evidence provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

“Mr. Guiliani entered into a plea agreement because he believes it is in his best interest to do so at this time,” Merrill said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Torresen declined to comment on the case. It is the practice of the U.S. Attorney’s Office not to comment on cases until they have been resolved.

Guiliani founded Azteca Consulting Associates Inc. 8½ years ago. He was the sole employee of the South Portland business, which provided workers to potato processors in Fort Fairfield and Belfast, lumber companies in Searsmont and Bingham, a resort in Casco, a pallet producer in Livermore Falls and a country club in Augusta, according to documents filed in federal court in Bangor. In addition to labor contracting services, Azteca also provided consulting services for an egg processor and an insurance company.

The investigation that led to the charges against Guiliani began in September 2004 when five illegal aliens were arrested in Fort Fairfield working for a potato processor, according to the prosecution version of the offense to which Guiliani pleaded guilty. The men said they met Guiliani in a park in Chelsea, Mass., and he offered to help them find work in Maine.

When the men, who are not identified in court documents, told Guiliani they did not have good documents, the South Portland man told them that it did not matter. Guiliani pleaded guilty Tuesday to providing one of the men with a false Social Security number.

Guiliani charged the potato processor, who is not named in court documents, more than $3,000 in finder’s fees, transportation and other expenses. When investigators subpoenaed documents from the firm to which Guiliani had supplied other workers, they found that more than half of them did not have valid documents, according to court documents.

By pleading guilty to the charges Tuesday, Guiliani also admitted that he did not file federal tax returns from 2002 through 2005. He also said that he lied about his income when his youngest son applied for and received financial aid for the school years 2005 to 2006 and 2006 and 2007, according court documents.

In his plea agreement with prosecutors, Guiliani has agreed to pay $214,269 in back taxes, penalties and interest. He also agreed to repay $14,737 in federal funds and $1,600 in state funds for fraudulently obtained student loans.

By signing the plea agreement, Guiliani said he would not appeal his sentence if it is less than three years and five months.

Under the federal sentencing guidelines, he faces a maximum of 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 tax returns. The potential fines in the case range from $100,000 to $250,000.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/05/25/news/bangor/maine-advocate-admits-harboring-illegal-immigrants/ printed on September 22, 2014