Illegal aliens result in $119,000 fine

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RENO - A Carson City business owner and two of his managers were fined Tuesday for employing at least 65 undocumented workers at their Lockheed Way manufacturing plant.

Ben VanDenbossche, 57, was sentenced in Reno by U.S. Magistrate Judge Valerie Cooke for his guilty pleas to three misdemeanor counts of unlawfully employing illegal aliens at his Stonewear Inc. manufacturing business in Carson City.

VanDenbossche was ordered to pay a criminal fine of $9,000 and an administrative penalty of $110,000 to the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Because he is a rancher in Northern Nevada, VanDenbossche also agreed to make a charitable donation of beef which will be distributed to Northern Nevada charities.

VanDenbossche's managers at Stonewear Inc., Ray Bowers, of Reno, and Eugene Soulier, of Carson City, also pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of unlawful employment of illegal aliens and were ordered to pay a $500 fine each.

According to court records, from about July 2000 through July 2002, investigators determined that approximately 65 undocumented aliens were working at Stonewear Inc.

A review of Stonewear's records revealed that VanDenbossche, Bowers, and Soulier acted with reckless disregard, in that they knew or should have known that the employees were unauthorized aliens and not eligible for employment under United States laws.

During a raid of the plant July 16, 2002, dozens of illegal aliens were arrested.

The bust was described as the largest operation at a single site in Northern Nevada. Immigration and Naturalization Service agents converged on Stonewear Inc. on Lockheed Way at 8:30 a.m.

Lois Chappell, officer in charge of the Reno office, said more than 30 state, local and other federal officers supported the 17 immigration agents in the raid including Carson Sheriff's deputies, Nevada Highway Patrol and the Nevada Division of Investigations.

According to Chappell, a majority of those arrested returned to Mexico the following day.


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