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01/27/2009

President and New Bedford manufacturer sentenced

Prison time for hiring and harboring illegal aliens, and failing to pay overtime

BOSTON - A New Bedford manufacturer awarded almost $230 million in contracts over the past five years was sentenced today along with its president to prison time after an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Francesco Insolia and Michael Bianco Inc. (MBI) were sentenced for various charges alleging they hired illegal aliens, helped to shield them from detection, failed to pay them full overtime, and fraudulently misled the government, all in an effort to maximize profits on a series of lucrative military contracts. MBI was ordered to pay a fine of $1.51 million dollars and restitution of $460,000 for overtime owed to employees.  Its president and principal shareholder Francesco Insolia, 51 of Pembroke, Massachusetts, was sentenced to 12 months and one day imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $30,000 fine.

The announcement was made today by United States Attorney Michael J. Sullivan and Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge for ICE's Office of Investigations in Boston.

MBI previously pled guilty to: 18 counts of knowingly hiring illegal aliens on various dates from between early 2004 and late 2006, a time during which the company grew from less than a hundred to five hundred employees; helping to harbor and shield illegal aliens from detection from authorities from 2004 to 2007; fraudulently misrepresenting social security numbers; committing mail fraud when it submitted social security numbers to the IRS and Social Security Administration knowing that many of the numbers had to be false given that many of the company's employees were illegal aliens and; failing to pay many employees overtime from 2005 to 2007.

Insolia pled guilty to helping harbor and conceal aliens by allowing the company to submit false social security numbers for employees to the government as if they were real.  The charges arose in the context of an investigation by ICE which began in 2006 and culminated in a March 6, 2007 enforcement action at the company's New Bedford offices at 89 West Rodney French Boulevard, leading to the detention of 361 illegal aliens.

"Employers that seek to gain an unfair business advantage over their competitors by using illegal workers should take note of today's sentences," said John P. Torres, Homeland Security Acting Assistant Secretary for ICE.  "Investigations like this one are an essential part of our enforcement strategy.  ICE remains resolute in our responsibility to hold employers accountable for their actions to give law-abiding businesses a fair chance to compete."

United States Attorney Sullivan said, "Our nation is rich with opportunities and it is no wonder that people from around the globe seek to come here to work and live.  The egregious actions by Mr. Insolia and MBI undermined our nation's principles of freedom and the integrity of our immigration system, placing legally operating businesses at a competitive disadvantage."

Insolia created MBI in 1985 and specialized in the manufacture of handbags and other fine leather goods.  Between 2001 and 2006, MBI won a number of Department of Defense contracts worth approximately $230 million to manufacture certain products for the U.S. military.  As a result of these defense contracts, MBI began to substantially increase its workforce, growing from about 85 employees in 2001 to more than 500 people in 2006.

On October 24, 2008, Dilia Costa, MBI's production manager, pled guilty to a two count superseding Information charging her with hiring and harboring illegal aliens and is scheduled for sentencing on January 29, 2009.  MBI's contracts administrator, Gloria Melo, pled guilty on the same day to one count of continuing to employee aliens even after the company had reason to know they were illegal, and was sentenced on January 20, 2009 to time served and fined $500.  Ana Figueroa, MBI's payroll manager, pled guilty to related charges on January 23, 2009 and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 22, 2009.

The case was investigated by ICE with substantial assistance from the Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General, Department of Defense's Criminal Investigative Service, U.S. Department of Labor - Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Labor - Employment Standards Administration, Wage and Hour Division, Insurance Fraud Bureau of Massachusetts and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.  It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Donald Cabell and B. Stephanie Siegmann in Sullivan's Criminal Division.