Hotel owner charged with hiring aliens


The owner of two Brattleboro hotels has been arrested and charged with hiring illegal alien workers in a sweep that also rounded up 14 workers.

Gurdeep Nagra, 38, a Canadian citizen who has been living in Brattleboro, was charged with harboring and employing illegal aliens and lying to authorities to gain his own authorization to live in the United States.

He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in U.S. District Court in Burlington and was being held pending a bail hearing.

Nagra's arraignment Tuesday followed searches of the Quality Inn and Hampton Inn in Brattleboro by agents from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"Today's enforcement action is part of ICE's continued efforts to investigate those who hire and facilitate the hiring of illegal workers," Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Boston, said in a statement.

"No employer, regardless of size, industry or geographic location, is immune from complying with our nation's laws," Foucart added.

Of the 14, one was found in possession of a controlled substance and arrested, three were released and ordered to appear for an immigration hearing later and the rest were being held pending hearings before an immigration judge.

Authorities said the probe began when they received information last October that the hotels were employing illegal aliens and allowing them to live on the properties.

"Many of these individuals were employed by a 'shell' company created by Nagra to avoid detection by immigration officials," said a statement from the Vermont U.S. attorney's office.

The government said Nagra, then using the name Gurdeep Singh, had been arrested in 1992 after entering the United States illegally. He then went through a legal process to have his name changed to Nagra and later applied for admission to the U.S. under the new name.

"Court records state that Mr. Nagra swore under oath that he had never previously been arrested, that he had never had an immigration file and that he had never used a different name," said the U.S. attorney's statement.

Nagra's lawyer, Burlington attorney Lisa Shelkrot, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday. ... FNCD01.htm