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Quebec woman faces federal prison sentence for helping smuggle aliens in Franklin County

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AKWESASNE - A Quebec woman faces up to five years in federal prison after admitting Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, that she took part in a conspiracy to smuggle undocumented aliens into the United States through the Akwasasne Mohawk Reservation.

Angela Johnson, age not available, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bring aliens into the United States for purposes of commercial advantage and private financial gain. In addition to a prison term, she could face a fine of up to $250,000 at sentencing May 2, according to a plea agreement filed in the matter.

According to the agreement, Johnson, a resident of the reservation, participated in a conspiracy between June 2011 and April 4 to bring undocumented aliens from Poland and other countries to Cornwall, Ont., where they would stay at an apartment for three or four days. From there, the aliens would be taken by boat or snowmobile across the St. Lawrence River to Johnson’s home in St. Regis Village, Que., a residence she shared with John Benedict, who pleaded guilty to the conspiracy Oct. 7 and is due to be sentenced Feb. 7.

On Feb. 22 and Feb. 23, Johnson and other alleged coconspirators transported eight aliens by two snowmobiles across the river to her home. The aliens either rode on the snowmobiles or were towed behind the machines on sleds, according to court documents. Upon arrival in St. Regis Village, the aliens were transferred to an alleged coconspirator, who drove them by vehicle to Massena.

According to court documents, the case began Feb. 24 when U.S. Border Patrol agents observed a white Mitsubishi Galant “warranting elevated suspicion” because it was “making numerous movements” around the Walmart parking lot in Massena with no one getting in or out. A white Cadillac Escalade pulled into the lot and parked next to the Galant, with four people getting out of the Escalade and into the back seat of the Galant. An agent followed the Galant containing six people onto Route 420 before halting it.

Ian R.E. Tarbell and Dariusz Podgajny have entered also guilty pleas in the case, admitting to their roles in the smuggling activity and are awaiting sentence. Two Polish nationals pleaded guilty in July to re-entering the United States without permission after previously having been ordered deported and were sentenced to about five months’ time served in federal custody. A charge of transporting undocumented aliens within the United States remains pending against Oleh Solomon, with a trial set for Jan. 6.

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