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Quebec man sentenced to two years in prison for smuggling aliens through Mohawk reservation

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UTICA - A Quebec man was sentenced Friday to two years in federal prison for his role in smuggling undocumented aliens into the United States through the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation.

John Benedict, age not available, St. Regis Village, Que., also was ordered in U.S. District Court, Utica, to undergo three additional years of supervision upon his release from prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to bring aliens into the United States.

He and his wife, Angela Johnson, allowed their home, which is on the reservation, to be used as a way station for aliens entering the country from Canada.

According to court documents, undocumented aliens from Poland and other countries were brought by coconspirators to Cornwall, Ont., and then transported by boat or snowmobile across the St. Lawrence River to the residence shared by Benedict and Johnson.

In late February 2013, Johnson and other alleged coconspirators transported eight aliens on 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 conspiracy came to light Feb. 24, 2013, 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 and finding several undocumented aliens inside.

Johnson has entered a guilty plea to the conspiracy charge and is due to be sentenced May 2. Ian R.E. Tarbell, Hogansburg, Dariusz Podgajny, a Polish national, and Oleh Solomon, a citizen of Ukraine, have admitted 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. They also were ordered deported.

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