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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Texas man was sentenced to 6 months in prison for harboring illegal aliens

FARGO, N.D. - A Texas man was sentenced to six months in prison Tuesday for harboring illegal aliens in Grand Forks, N.D. The case is the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that began with the arrest of illegal aliens by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol.

Michael Brent Byrd, 47, owner and operator of B&B Masonry Inc., in Tyler, Texas, was sentenced Tuesday to six months in federal prison for harboring illegal aliens before U.S. District Court Judge Ralph R. Erickson. Byrd was also ordered to forfeit $45,450. There is no parole in the federal prison system.

Byrd and B&B Masonry Inc. pleaded guilty Oct. 25 to harboring illegal aliens who worked for him work at a construction site in Grand Forks, N.D.

On Dec. 6, 2006, the Border Patrol arrested 10 illegal aliens in Grand Forks. They had been working at the construction site of the Texas Roadhouse restaurant for B&B Masonry, a sub-contractor on the project. ICE agents, with assistance from the Border Patrol, learned that the illegal aliens had been transported to Grand Forks by B&B Masonry, and were staying at the Grand Forks Comfort Inn, where Byrd had rented rooms for them.

Further investigation revealed that Byrd had knowingly and intentionally hired large numbers of illegal aliens for his company, which had constructed about 160 restaurant projects throughout the United States.

"This prison sentence should serve as notice to employers who consider hiring illegal aliens as a means to beat the business competition," said Michael Mach, resident agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Grand Forks. "ICE aggressively targets employers who use illegal alien labor as a business model. We will continue to investigate and bring criminal action against employers who egregiously violate the nation's immigration laws."

"This case helps reaffirm the law enforcement commitment to the integrity of our nation's border as well as to the integrity of North Dakota's labor and employment markets," said U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Chase, District of North Dakota, prosecuted this case.