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O'Hare Airport temporary staffing employees sentenced for harboring illegal aliens who were given access to secure areas

Assisted illegal workers in obtaining unauthorized airport security badges

CHICAGO - The owner of a Bensenville temporary employment agency and her assistant were sentenced in federal court Wednesday for harboring illegal aliens and assisting those workers in obtaining unauthorized access to secure areas at O'Hare International Airport, including the tarmac. The sentences resulted from a multi-agency federal investigation conducted in 2007 and led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Mary Gurin, 38, of Carpentersville, Ill., and Norinye Benitez, 26, of Franklin Park, were sentenced Sept. 30 by U.S. District Judge Elaine E. Bucklo, Northern District of Illinois, for harboring illegal aliens for financial gain. Gurin, who pleaded guilty May 11 to the charge, was sentenced to 36 months in federal prison. Benitez received 12 months and one day of imprisonment following her Dec. 12 guilty plea.

According to documents filed in court, Gurin owned Ideal Staffing, a staffing agency located at 170 N. Pine Lane, Bensenville, Ill., that contracted with several companies to provide temporary employees for work done in and around O'Hare.

Between February 2006 and November 2007, Gurin knowingly employed at least 54 illegal workers and arranged for them to fraudulently obtain airport security badges by falsely certifying information on the security badge application forms. The badges allowed the workers to enter secure areas while loading pallets, freight and meals for companies doing business at O'Hare, including some commercial airlines.

At times, Gurin also knowingly distributed airport security badges issued in other names to the illegal workers, which circumvented the appropriate security screening process and allowed illegal workers access to secure areas.

The 54 illegal workers from Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador all faced state felony charges for possessing fraudulent identification in the form of an airport security badge. To date, ICE has recovered 34 fraudulent airport badges.

"These cases illustrate the need for ICE's continued vigilance to protect our nation's airports and other critical infrastructure," said John Morton, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for ICE. "The defendants circumvented airport security and the screening process in the name of greed."

According to court documents, Gurin supervised the work of Norinye Benitez, her office assistant. Under Gurin's direction, Benitez assisted hiring between 35 and 40 illegal workers and fraudulently obtained airport security badges for them. Benitez admitted to falsifying information on employment forms for workers who did not have proper identification, and to knowingly hiring illegal workers who presented counterfeit documents. Benitez, who is herself an illegal alien, will be transferred to ICE custody after she completes her prison sentence.

ICE was assisted in this investigation by the following agencies: Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General; Department of Labor's Office of the Inspector General; U.S. Attorneys' Office, Northern District of Illinois; Cook County State's Attorney's Office; Cook County Sheriff's Police Department; City of Chicago's Office of the Inspector General; U.S Customs and Border Protection; and the Transportation Security Administration.