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Illegal hirings cost Fargo man $75,000 in fines

A man who hired illegal immigrants to work for his Fargo-based railroad repair company must spend six months on home confinement and forfeit $75,000.

A man who hired illegal immigrants to work for his Fargo-based railroad repair company must spend six months on home confinement and forfeit $75,000.

Jesse Bledsoe, 51, of Fargo received the sentence Friday in U.S. District Court for harboring illegal immigrants, a charge he pleaded guilty to Aug. 4.

Attorneys disagreed about whether Bledsoe, who has since sold Bledsoe Rail Service, should spend three of the six months at a halfway house.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Puhl argued that Bledsoe must be punished for hiring illegal immigrants for his company.

His attorney, Lorelle Moeckel, told U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson that Bledsoedoesn't have substance abuse issues and needs to sleep on a special bed because of back problems.

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Moeckel also said Bledsoe is being punished because he faces losing much of his railroad pension.

The judge ordered Bledsoe to serve time on electronic home monitoring and perform 250 hours of community service. Bledsoe will be allowed to split the six-month sentence over two winters so he can work during peak business months.

Erickson said Bledsoe overcame significant obstacles in his life to build a successful career but appears to have lost much of it because of the conviction. The judge didn't go into details but referred to paperwork filed in the case.

Erickson also said Bledsoe made a poor choice and didn't understand the consequences of employing illegal immigrants.

At most, Bledsoe expected he'd face a fine but no felony conviction, the judge said.

A traffic stop near Lakota, N.D., led to the arrest of 11 suspected illegal immigrants. Criminal charges were filed last November against each of the men.

The plea agreement reached between federal prosecutors and Bledsoe said five of the men were working in the United States illegally. If the case went to trial, prosecutors would have difficulty proving six of the men were illegally in the country.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Steven P. Wagner at (701) 241-5542

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