LAUREL — A federal judge has again postponed sentencing for the only executive convicted in the nation’s largest workplace raid on illegal immigrants, and a legal expert said the continued delays could mean he’s cooperating in an ongoing investigation.
Jose Humberto Gonzalez pleaded guilty in Dec. 2009 to conspiracy and admitted he knowingly hired illegal immigrants at a Howard Industries plant in Laurel, where more than 600 workers had been detained in a raid the year before.
Gonzalez, who was the personnel director at the plant, is the only company official charged in the case so far.
His sentencing has been delayed four times without public explanation. It was most recently scheduled for next week, but U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett canceled that in an order issued Dec. 29.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys refused to say if Gonzalez is cooperating in a broader investigation or discuss reasons for the delays. However, the delays have come after prosecutors filed sealed motions in the case.
After Gonzalez pleaded guilty last year, attorney Frank Trapp, who has filed motions in the case on behalf of Howard Industries, told The Associated Press that no other Howard executives knew the company employed illegal immigrants.
In a court filing in May, months after Gonzalez pleaded guilty, Trapp wrote that the company “understands that the government’s investigation is ongoing.”
Trapp said Dec. 30 in an e-mail that he stands by the statement that no other Howard Industries executives knew illegal immigrants were working at the plant.
One of Gonzalez’s defense attorneys, Tim Holleman, said the defense team can’t comment on pending court matters. The U.S. attorney’s office also declined to comment.
The company has generally declined to discuss the raid, but it issued a statement in the past that said it hires only U.S. citizens and people who can legally work in the U.S.