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Sun., Dec. 21
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Final defendant pleads guilty in alien smuggling conspiracy

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MASSENA — The last of five defendants accused of participating in a conspiracy to smuggle undocumented aliens into the United States through the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation pleaded guilty to the charge Tuesday in federal court.

Oleh Solomon, age not available, a citizen of Ukraine, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court, Utica, to conspiracy to bring aliens into the United States and transporting aliens. Sentencing was tentatively set for May 16. The plea cancels a trial scheduled for this week.

According to an indictment handed up in the matter, Solomon arranged to have aliens who had illegally crossed the border from Canada transported within the United States, for the purpose of financial gain.

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, finding undocumented aliens and Solomon, who is in the country legally. Simultaneously, other agents followed the Escalade to a residence in Massena, where agents saw the driver, later identified as Ian R.E. Tarbell, go inside, come out and drive away in a Chevrolet Silverado onto North Raquette Road. The vehicle was halted on O’Neill Road, where Tarbell allegedly admitted he knew he was transporting illegal aliens from St. Regis Village, Que., to Massena.

.Tarbell, Hogansburg, and Dariusz Podgajny, a Polish national, also have pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges, with .Tarbell due to be sentenced Feb. 14 and .Podgajny’s sentencing slated for March 14. Podgajny was alleged to have picked up the aliens in Toronto and driven them to Cornwall, Ont., where he facilitated them being smuggled into the United States.

John Benedict and Angela Johnson, both of St. Regis Village, Que., also have entered guilty pleas, being accused of using their residence on the reservation as place for the aliens to stay until they could be transported into the United States. Benedict is due to be sentenced Feb. 7, while Johnson’s sentencing is set for May 2.

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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