MASSENA Four more people have been named in federal indictments alleging they participated in a conspiracy to bring undocumented aliens into the United States in a case that began in February with the investigation of a suspicious vehicle in the Walmart parking lot on Route 37.
John Benedict and Angela Johnson entered not-guilty pleas Thursday in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, to a charge of conspiracy to bring aliens into the United States for purposes of commercial advantage and private financial gain, while Dariusz Podgajny and Oleh Solomon entered not-guilty pleas to transporting aliens into the country. Ian R.E. Tarbell and Mikita Palaukov previously had pleaded not guilty to a charge contained in an indictment alleging they participated in the conspiracy to bring aliens into the country.
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 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.
Mr. Palaukov, the driver, and Mr. Solomon told agents they were in the United States legally, although Mr. Palaukov allegedly admitted the other four passengers were illegal aliens. Simultaneously, other agents followed the Escalade to a residence in the village, where agents saw the driver, later identified as Mr. Tarbell, go inside, come out and drive away in a Chevrolet Silverado onto North Raquette Road. The vehicle was halted on ONeill Road, where Mr. Tarbell allegedly admitted he knew he was transporting illegal aliens from St. Regis Village, Quebec, to Massena and was being paid $450. According to court documents, one of the Polish nationals told agents he had entered the United States from Canada by sled.
During a subsequent investigation, one of the aliens, who became a confidential informant for law enforcement, allegedly admitted that they had been paid to pick up a group of aliens at Mr. Benedicts home on the Quebec side of the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation and take them to Walmart. A second informant, who spent a period at Mr. Benedicts house, according to court documents, allegedly told agents that Mr. Benedict had brought her across the frozen St. Lawrence River on a snowmobile. The second informant also allegedly identified Ms. Johnson as the woman who was at Mr. Benedicts house who directed her and other aliens to the residences basement and who advised them it was time to leave and be transported by van.
Mr. Podgajny, a Polish national, is alleged to have picked up the aliens in Toronto and driven them to Cornwall, Ontario, where he facilitated the aliens being smuggled into the United States. 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.