An Evans-based contractor was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison Tuesday for harboring illegal immigrants and using them for his construction business.
Hugo Diaz will get credit for the six months he’s already served and will be recommended for deportation to his native Mexico upon his release early next year.
Diaz’s attorney, Brian McEvoy, requested a downward departure from the sentence guidelines and the U.S. Attorney’s Office had no objection to a sentence at the lower end of the recommended 12 to 18 months confinement. But U.S. District Judge Randal Hall said from the bench that a reduced sentence wouldn’t convey the seriousness of the charge.
“This is a practice that cannot be tolerated,” Hall said.
Wednesday’s sentencing caps a saga that started in November, when federal and local law enforcement swarmed on the home Diaz shared with his wife, Blanca. An indictment charged the couple with harboring aliens, money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Diaz and his wife both pleaded guilty in February in exchange for the U.S. Attorney’s Office dropping all but one of their charges. Blanca Diaz was sentenced a few days later and received credit for time served and deportation.
At the sentence hearing Wednesday, neighbors and business partners praised Diaz as a “good man” and a loving father and husband. They said he was living the American dream by building up a business from scratch after coming to the United States illegally in 2004.
For his part, Diaz apologized and accepted full responsibility for his actions.
“America is a great country, it really is,” Diaz said. “I will keep it in my heart for the rest of my life.”