Final defendant sentenced in O’Neill case

Part of scheme against undocumented workers
Published: Jul. 2, 2020 at 10:20 AM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - United States Attorney Joe Kelly announced that the last of 15 individual defendants from Juan Pablo Sanchez-Delgado’s scheme to harbor and exploit illegal and undocumented workers in O’Neill, Nebraska, and elsewhere was sentenced in federal court on June 30, 2020. Antonio de Jesus Castro, the stepson of Juan Pablo Sanchez-Delgado, was sentenced by Chief United States District Judge John M. Gerrard to 4 months of imprisonment and one year of probation. According to the Court, Castro was shown leniency due to the fact that Sanchez-Delgado put his stepson in the position of running the conspiracy when Sanchez-Delgado fled to Las Vegas to hide from authorities.

All 15 defendants were initially taken into custody on August 8, 2018, following the simultaneous execution of dozens of search warrants at work site locations across Nebraska and Minnesota, and at Juan Pablo Sanchez-Delgado’s personal residences in Las Vegas, Nevada. Sanchez-Delgado defrauded federal and state governments, as well as his workforce of undocumented workers, out of millions of dollars in a conspiracy that ran for years out of O’Neill. Testimony at trial established that Sanchez-Delgado took money from the undocumented workers’ paychecks, shorted them on the hours they worked, and kept their income tax withholdings and Social Security and Medicare withholdings from their paychecks for himself instead of paying that money in to state and federal taxation authorities. The conspiracy as a whole was responsible for harboring and exploiting hundreds of undocumented workers over the last decade.

On August 8, 2018, Agents with Homeland Security Investigations seized more than $138,000 in illegal proceeds of the conspiracy from Sanchez-Delgado’s bank accounts, concealed in the names of one or more of his co-conspirators. The United States Attorney’s Office obtained forfeiture of Sanchez-Delgado’s Las Vegas residences with a combined gross value of approximately $1.7 million. Chief Judge Gerrard indicated at earlier sentencing hearings that he also intends to award the undocumented workers restitution for the wages that Sanchez-Delgado defrauded them out of during the conspiracy. This final order of restitution will be entered at a future date. Agents encountered more than 100 undocumented workers employed by Sanchez-Delgado and his co-conspirators on August 8, 2018. Many more workers have come forward since that time seeking restitution for unpaid wages.

Chief Judge Gerrard described the conspiracy as “one of the most egregious financial crimes,” that he had observed. He previously sentenced Sanchez-Delgado to the maximum allowable time by statute, 120 months in federal prison and a $150,000 fine. The fine was in addition to the assets and cash that Sanchez-Delgado was ordered to forfeit to the United States.

Magdalena Castro-Benitez, Sanchez-Delgado’s wife, was previously sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for serving as Sanchez Delgado’s “money manager.” Both defendants were ordered to serve a term of three years of supervised release each to follow their respective terms of imprisonment.

Sanchez-Delgado and his wife conducted more than $9 million in financial transactions with the money generated by this conspiracy, and they received more than $5 million from labor contracts with agricultural businesses like O’Neill Ventures, LLC, the first company to partner with Sanchez-Delgado at the inception of this conspiracy and a tomato plant located in O’Neill. The company had pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to harbor aliens, and was ordered to pay a $400,000 fine for its role in the offense.

A human resources officer for the tomato plant, Mayra Jimenez, was convicted by a jury at trial in November, 2019, for her participation in the conspiracy and for her efforts to aid Sanchez-Delgado in harboring undocumented workers at the plant. Jimenez was sentenced to 12 weekends of jail and six months of house arrest, along with three years of probation and a $500 fine.

United States Attorney Kelly lauded the efforts of Homeland Security Investigations and Assistant United States Attorney Lesley Woods for their unique and innovative approach to this investigation that included the use of a wiretap and focusing on the assets of the illegal enterprise.

United States Attorney Kelly further noted that this was not a typical harboring case. This investigation and prosecution targeted an individual who, with his co-conspirators, amassed great wealth by exploiting some of the most vulnerable among us. These workers worked long hours under harsh conditions without the benefit of over time compensation and in the end had parts of their wages withheld for the additional benefit of the illegal enterprise.

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations.

Copyright 2020 KSNB. All rights reserved.

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