ANCHORAGE (AP) -- An Anchorage man who made a fortune as a local painting contractor has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for knowingly hiring illegal residents, encouraging them to remain in the country and threatening them if they alerted authorities.
Eduardo Antonio Delgado also was ordered to pay $224,133 in back wages to 29 workers who helped make him a wealthy man with a mansion in South Anchorage, fancy cars and two successful businesses.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service started investigating Delgado's businesses after the agency received tips in 1998.
John Gerardo, the INS special agent in charge of the case, called it the worst case of its type in the Anchorage district.
Delgado is a native of Mexico and himself a former illegal immigrant who became a U.S. citizen in 1997. Court documents said he employed about 30 workers from 1996 to 1999. Delgado knowingly hired illegal immigrants and legal residents, court documents said.
Employees were made to work 17- to 20-hour-days six or seven days a week, Gerardo said. Delgado consistently did not properly compensate workers, and if money was tight, he paid legal workers before illegal ones, authorities said.
In 1997, Delgado owned a 7,500-square-foot home valued at $550,000 in South Anchorage. Neighbors watched Delgado come and go occasionally in a new Mercedes, sometimes in a fancy pickup pulling a trailer loaded with new snowmachines.
Delgado's attorney, Bill Bryson, said his client tried to help people. His business grew fast, Bryson said, and he made mistakes.
Bryson said the mansion has been sold, Delgado's business is gone and many of his assets are missing.
''He built himself into a very successful businessman, and he has lost it all,'' Bryson said.
Under a plea agreement, Delgado pleaded guilty to 15 counts, including three counts of accepting or receiving counterfeit immigration documents, three counts of harboring illegal immigrants, seven counts of inducing or encouraging the illegal immigrants to remain in the country and two counts of tampering with a witness.
Delgado, 31, waived his right to appeal.
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