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04/16/2009

Irish man guilty of immigration, firearms, and tax charges

PHILADELPHIA - Sean O'Neill, 49, of Willistown Township, Pa., pleaded guilty today to three counts of immigration fraud, one count of illegal possession of a firearm silencer without a serial number, and one count of conspiracy to commit tax fraud. O'Neill carries an Irish passport but hails from Coalisland, in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. He entered his guilty plea in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

During the hearing in federal court, O'Neill admitted he obtained a "green card," or lawful permanent residence status in the United States by lying about his criminal record. In his application for the green card, O'Neill denied having any criminal convictions. In fact, O'Neill had been convicted in the United Kingdom of being a member of a group dedicated to the violent overthrow of British rule in Northern Ireland. O'Neill also admitted he falsely claimed, during a judicial proceeding, that he was a U.S. citizen.

O'Neill also admitted that he engaged in a more than ten-year conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service of federal taxes. Specifically, O'Neill, who owns a construction company, a restaurant and bar, and a property development business, paid some of his employees in cash wages in order to avoid paying the required federal payroll taxes to the IRS.

O'Neill faces a maximum prison sentence of 146 years, three years supervised release, and a $4 million fine. He also faces a removal proceeding in immigration court as a result of this conviction.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigative Division, and the Pennsylvania State Police. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Nancy Beam Winter and Alexander T.H. Nguyen.