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05/29/2012

Texas firm and field operations supervisor charged with harboring and transporting illegal aliens

Individuals were used in north central Pennsylvania oil and gas survey work

HARRISBURG, Pa. – A Texas firm and its field operations supervisor were charged Tuesday with harboring and transporting illegal aliens and conspiracy to commit those offenses as outlined in an indictment by the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Peter J. Smith.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with participation from the FBI and Williamsport (Pa.) Bureau of Police.

GPX/GPX, USA, a seismic surveying company based in Sealy, Texas, and its field operations supervisor, Douglas C. Wiggill, were charged with committing the offenses in Williamsport, Pa.

Court documents from the HSI investigation allege that in May 2011 GPX and Wiggill hired 19 illegal aliens to work on a seismic surveying project in Lycoming County. The indictment alleges that GPS and Wiggill failed to verify the immigration status of the aliens and did not prepare the required Form I-9 and supporting documentation concerning the aliens’ authorization to work in the United States.

"Homeland Security Investigations is committed to holding businesses and their managers accountable when they knowingly hire an illegal workforce," said John Kelleghan, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia. "HSI and our law enforcement partners will continue to ensure that employers follow our nation's hiring laws, which ultimately protect job opportunities for the nation's legal workers, and levels the playing field for those businesses that play by the rules."

According to the indictment, GPX executed a contractor compliance agreement certifying that all personnel were authorized to work legally in the United States when, in fact, they were not. On June 23 and 24, 2011, HSI special agents and officers of the Williamsport Bureau of Police arrested 19 aliens employed by GPX at, or in the vicinity of apartments rented for them in Williamsport by Wiggill and GPX. The arrests were the result of an investigation of one of the aliens by Williamsport police.

Wiggill, a 42-year resident of Ft. Worth, Texas, was taken into custody in Williamsport, Pa. If convicted, he faces a maximum aggregate sentence on all 20 counts of the indictment of 100 years in prison, a fine of $5 million, a supervised release term of 60 years, and a special assessment of $2,000. GPX faces a total maximum fine of $10 million, a probation term of five years on each count, and a special assessment totaling $8,000.

An indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.