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10/10/2008

Brattleboro man pleads guilty to employing illegal aliens and for conspiring to make false statements

BURLINGTON, VT - Following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a Vermont man pleaded guilty to charges related to knowingly hiring illegal aliens for employment, and conspiring to make false statements in connection with a bank loan.

Gurdeep Nagra, 39, a citizen of Canada residing in Brattleboro, Vt., was arrested by ICE special agents on Oct. 23, 2007 and pleaded guilty Oct. 2, 2008.

According to Court records, Nagra was the President of the Nanak Hotel Group, which owned and operated the Hampton and Quality Inns in Brattleboro, Vt. In Oct. 2006, ICE was notified that the hotels were employing illegal aliens and that the hotels were also allowing the aliens to live on hotel premises. Sources told law enforcement that the hotels handled payroll very differently for legal and illegal employees. Court records also show many of these individuals were employed by a shell company created by Nagra to avoid detection by immigration officials.

"ICE is hard at work every day seeking out those who willingly violate our nation's laws by hiring illegal workers," said Bruce M. Foucart, special agent-in-charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Boston. "This case should be a reminder that no employer, regardless of size, industry, or location is above the law."

Court records further reveal that Nagra and his partners in the hotel business applied for a construction loan to build the Hampton Inn in Brattleboro, Vt. In the course of that application, Nagra and his partners entered into two contracts for the construction and submitted the higher priced contract to the bank but agreed with the builder that the lower priced contract would govern the actual price to be paid to the builder. The records also show that the bank required Nagra and his partners to post a $400,000 deposit with the builder but they arranged to have the money shunted back to them through a bank account set up for that purpose in the name of a third party. The bank involved did not eventually suffer any loss as a result of the loan.

Sentencing for Nagra has been scheduled for Feb. 2009. Nagra faces up to 5 years of imprisonment on each count, and up to three years of supervised release. He also faces fines of up to $500,000 and $100 special assessment on each of the two counts. Full restitution may also be ordered.

Also, as part of this criminal investigation, on Feb. 5, 2008, ICE arrested Sanderson Pinheiro, a citizen of Brazil, had been living in Vermont and Massachusetts. The Government charged Pinheiro with conspiring with Nagra to employ and to harbor illegal aliens and for obtaining identification under false pretenses. Pinheiro pleaded guilty and was sentenced to time served (8 months) for conspiring to hire and to recruit illegal aliens for employment in the United States.

Lisa Shelkrot, Esq. represents the Gurdeep Nagra; Elizabeth Mann, Esq. represents Sanderson Pinheiro. Assistant U.S. Attorney James Gelber prosecuted the case for the United States.