Roswell businessman accepts plea deal in raid case
© The Associated Press
Updated 05/24/2008 11:06:04 PM CDT
A top official of an Roswell aircraft painting shop will pay $300,000 in fines in an illegal immigration case.
Carl Baldwin, vice president of Dean Baldwin Painting Inc., pleaded guilty Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Robert Scott in Albuquerque to three misdemeanor counts of knowingly employing and accepting falsified documents from illegal immigrants, U.S. Attorney Gregory Fouratt said.
Baldwin admitted employing illegal immigrants from 2002 to 2005, Fouratt said.
The U.S. attorney said the fine was the largest of its kind ever imposed in an immigration case in New Mexico.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities raided the company's plant in Roswell, N.M. and arrested 15 illegal immigrants in August 2006.
Baldwin originally was charged with 10 felonies.
Federal prosecutors agreed to allow him to plead guilty to the misdemeanors instead in part so the company could continue to do business in Roswell, the Albuquerque Journal reported in a copyright story Friday. The federal prosecution wasn't intended to jeopardize the company's operations or the jobs of its employees, most of whom are U.S. citizens, Fouratt told the Journal.
The Journal said Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Wong said a felony conviction could have made it difficult for Baldwin to keep the security clearance he needs for work at airports.
"We're pleased with the outcome and we're pleased that it is resolved," said Jason Bowles, Baldwin's attorney.
Baldwin also will be on probation for three years.
"Mr. Fouratt felt that the wrongdoing had to be punished, but didn't want to penalize the employees who were lawfully employed at the company by shutting it down," Norm Cairns, spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Albuquerque, told the Roswell Daily Record.
Baldwin and his company were ordered to pay a total of $550,000 in the case that arose from the raid on the Roswell plant. The U.S. Department of Labor administratively sanctioned Dean Baldwin Painting, ordering it to pay $250,000 for employing illegal immigrants.
The company released a statement expressing disappointment in the U.S. attorney's reference to an administrative sanction "for employing illegal aliens." The company said it has "worked hard to implement personnel practices to guard against the employment of illegal workers" and is enrolled in federal programs to help businesses screen prospective employees and check the citizenship of current ones.
Charges originally were directed solely at the company, but Baldwin was charged after prosecutors alleged he accepted falsified documents from immigrants.
The company, which has headquarters in the San Antonio suburb of Bulverde, Texas, is under contract to paint commercial and U.S. military aircraft at the Roswell International Air Center.
The Air Force temporarily suspended Dean Baldwin from receiving new contracts but said it could continue previously contracted jobs.
The business recently lost a nearly $23 million economic development and lease agreement with the Midland Development Corp. when the governing body of the Texas city rescinded the deal after learning about the immigration raid and that the company owed taxes to New Mexico.
The state of New Mexico charged last year that the company owed back taxes. Dean Baldwin challenged the claim, but lost in the state Court of Appeals.
Gov. Bill Richardson and Rep. Dan Foley, R-Roswell, worked together in February to craft a long-term plan for the business to pay more than $522,000 in taxes, interest and penalties.
Information from: Roswell Daily Record, http://www.roswell-record.com