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Nederland man pleads guilty in scheme to use undocumented aliens - 12 News KBMT and K-JAC. News, Weather and Sports for SE Texas

Nederland man pleads guilty in scheme to use undocumented aliens in oil spill cleanup

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Thomas Gard, of Nederland, has entered a plea of guilty to conspiring to transport undocumented aliens, concealing and harboring undocumented aliens and inducing and encouraging their residence in the U.S. for commercial advantage and financial gain according to a news release issued by United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson and Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston.

Gard, 50, was charged along with Phillip Taylor Hallmark, 49, of Winnie, in relation to the August 2010 transportation of at least 42 undocumented workers to cleanup an oil spill in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Hallmark, the owner of Hallmark Industrial Services Inc. (HIS), pleaded guilty to the conspiracy April 11, 2013. Gard was a manager at HIS.

"Jobs are a major reason people come to America - be it in accordance with our laws or by breaking them. Those who facilitate the latter for the sake of profit need to understand that their actions come with a price," said Moskowitz.

"Those involved in the illicit hiring of workers should take note - doing business in this manner could wind up costing them their freedom."

According to the factual basis in support of Gard's plea today, HIS was contracted by Garner Environmental to clean up a ruptured Enbridge pipeline that resulted in an oil spill in Kalamazoo. Agents learned HIS knowingly employed undocumented aliens to clean up the oil spill and fraudulently completed work authorization forms on their behalf. It was a part of the conspiracy that the aliens were housed in hotels, provided meals and transportation to and from the worksite while they worked to clean the oil spill.

To further the employment of the undocumented workers, Hallmark and Gard paid them in cash. HIS would cash the undocumented aliens' checks en masse at a local bank in Winnie for the work done in Michigan. Once the checks were cashed, Hallmark would pay the undocumented aliens less than what he was paid by the contractor. The aliens claimed they never saw the checks before they were cashed and were paid $800 per week.

The investigation revealed the undocumented workers received less than what the contractor paid HIS.

Gard admitted he conspired with Hallmark to transport the undocumented workers back from Michigan after a now former U.S. Congressman accused HIS of hiring undocumented workers to clean up the Kalamazoo oil spill. Gard assisted in arranging the transportation, travel, food and hotel accommodations for the undocumented aliens.

Both Hallmark and Gard face a maximum of 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine at sentencing. Hallmark is set for Oct. 25, 2013, while Gard will be sentenced Nov. 8, 2013, at 10:00 a.m.

HSI investigated. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kebharu Smith and Suzanne Elmilady.

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