Ringleader and wife sentenced in O’Neill harboring case

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LINCOLN, Neb. -- Two people have been sentenced for their roles in a conspiracy to harbor undocumented workers across North Central Nebraska.

United States Attorney Joe Kelly announced that Juan Pablo Sanchez-Delgado and his wife, Magdalena Castro-Benitez were sentenced Wednesday.

Chief Judge Gerrard described the conspiracy as “one of the most egregious financial crimes,” that he had seen before sentencing Sanchez-Delgado 10 years in federal prison.

The Court also sentenced Sanchez-Delgado to a $150,000 fine and approved a preliminary order of forfeiture based on ICE seizures of over $130,000 in cash along with 3 Las Vegas residences owned by both Sanchez-Delgado and Castro-Benitez.

The residences have an estimated worth in excess of 1.5 million dollars. Castro-Benitez was sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison for serving as Sanchez Delgado’s “money manager.”

The conspiracy as a whole resulted in hundreds of undocumented workers being harbored and financially exploited by Sanchez-Delgado and his wife for years leading up to their arrests by Homeland Security Investigations on August 8, 2018. Several of the workers testified at a recent trial that Sanchez-Delgado was wrongfully taking money from their paychecks, not paying them for all of the hours they worked, and indicated that Sanchez-Delgado would take income tax withholdings and Social Security and Medicare withholdings form their paychecks but not actually pay that money in to state and federal taxation authorities. Another worker testified that Sanchez-Delgado charged him $300 a month for utilities for a one bedroom apartment because the worker could not get the utilities in his own name. Some workers were not paid their wages at all, and all of the workers were charged money to cash their checks at Sanchez-Delgado’s grocery store, where they were also forced to buy food from him. At the same time that undocumented workers were being defrauded, Sanchez-Delgado and his wife, Castro-Benitez, were acquiring expensive homes in Las Vegas with the proceeds of the harboring scheme and hoarding cash generated by the conspiracy at their various residence and business locations.

Sanchez-Delgado and his wife conducted over 9 million dollars in financial transactions with the money generated by this conspiracy, and they received over 5 million dollars from labor contracts with agricultural businesses. A human resources officer from a tomato plant, Mayra Jimenez, was recently convicted by a jury at trial for her own participation in the conspiracy and for her efforts to aid Sanchez-Delgado in harboring undocumented workers at the plant. Corporate emails admitted at trial revealed that Jimenez was aware that Sanchez-Delgado was not paying in taxes on his workers to government authorities and that his workers were likely paid less than lawful workers at the plant.

The victims will be allowed additional time to provide the United States Attorney’s Office and the Court with the money owed to them as restitution for these crimes, and Chief Judge Gerrard will determine the final restitution to be paid to the workers on a future date.

This case was investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations.