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GUILDERLAND: Head staff pleads guilty

On Tuesday, Feb. 27, federal, state and local law enforcement officials announced that as a result of a joint investigation, five managers and former managers of IFCO Systems, a pallet company that operates a facility in Guilderland, pleaded guilty to charges of transporting, harboring and employing illegal aliens.

The managers admitted guilt in relation to unlawful practices that occurred in Guilderland and four other plants nationwide. These practices included hiring unauthorized aliens, obtaining fraudulent work documents, and transporting and housing illegal aliens.

Glenn T. Suddaby, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of New York, called the results of the investigation pointed at management level officials very significant.

"This type of corporate practice can't be allowed," said Suddaby. "They create a situation of throwaway employees."

A worksite enforcement action was conducted at more than 40 IFCO plants nationwide, allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to detain nearly 1,200 illegal aliens working at the plants.

From October 2004 to April 2006, officials said IFCO employed 81 illegal aliens, most of whom came from Central America to the Guilderland plant located in the Northeastern Industrial Park.

Suddaby thanked Guilderland police for their "heads-up" police work, acknowledging that the department "provided significant information and support early on, which enabled us to move ahead with this investigation."

"We had a hit-and-run personal automobile injury accident that occurred in our town that involved some of the employees of IFCO," said Guilderland police officer Chuck Tanner, who participated in the investigation of the case. The car involved in the accident was carrying four employees of IFCO, said Tanner, and the driver ran following the accident. Tanner said Guilderland police were able to track the vehicle's occupants to a motor inn, and ICE was contacted.

Following the accident described by Tanner, Robert Belvin, a manager at the Guilderland plant, advised the two workers who were not charged to keep their identification documents in the trunk of their vehicles to avoid arrest, and to stop making disturbances that would attract police attention, according to the plea agreement.

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