MASSENA A Polish national was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, to 1¼ years in federal custody for his role in smuggling undocumented aliens into the United States from Canada through the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation.
Dariusz Podgajny, 35, was sentenced after pleading guilty Nov. 21 to conspiracy to bring aliens into the United States. He is the fourth person involved in the smuggling conspiracy to be sentenced.
According to court documents, Podgajny was living in Canada and working as a truck driver. He was accused of picking up aliens in Toronto and driving them to Cornwall, Ont., where he facilitated the aliens being smuggled into the United States.
According to court documents, federal prosecutors maintained that Podgajny was the mastermind of an international human smuggling operation, responsible for the smuggling of at least nine undocumented aliens and possibly more than 25. However, his attorney, George F. Hildebrandt, Syracuse, countered Podgajny had an extremely limited function in the conspiracy, participating in the smuggling on just two occasions, smuggling a total of five people.
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. The Escalade was tracked to ONeill Road, where its driver, Ian R.E. Tarbell, Hogansburg, told agents he had been paid $450 to drive the aliens from St. Regis Village, Que., to Massena.
Tarbell was sentenced March 7 to a year in federal custody for his role in the conspiracy. A husband and wife residing in St. Regis Village, John Benedict and Angela Johnson, admitted allowing their home to be used a way station for aliens entering the United States from Canada across the St. Lawrence River by snowmobile. Benedict was sentenced Feb. 7 to two years in prison, while Johnson is due to be sentenced May 7.
Oleh Solomon, a Ukraine citizen, was sentenced Feb. 21 to an unspecified amount of time served in federal custody for his role, while two Polish nationals pleaded guilty in July to re-entering the United States without permission after having been deported and were sentenced to about five months time served in federal custody. They also were ordered deported.