Ex-Alberta lawmaker Carl Benito and son sentenced for immigration fraud
EDMONTON, Alberta – A Filipino Canadian former Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and his son were sentenced for immigration fraud on Friday, Oct. 14, ending a long investigation by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) that started in 2016.
Ex-provincial lawmaker Carl Benito, 68, and his son, Charles, were sentenced in Court of King’s Bench after pleading guilty on Oct. 5 to employing eight undocumented Filipino nationals between 2016 and 2018 in Edmonton and Calgary.
Benito will serve two years of house arrest and pay a fine of $75,000 over the two years. In addition, he must perform 100 hours of community service.
His 28-year-old son, Charles, will serve nine months of house arrest. He’ll be allowed to continue attending classes during that time. That sentence will be followed by 18 months of probation and an order to perform 100 hours of community service.
The full-time plumbing student at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) appeared in court on overalls and denim pants according to reports.
The Benitos operate three immigration consulting companies: Triple Maple Leaf Canada, World Immigration Group and Helping Migrants Canadian Immigration with offices in Edmonton and Calgary.
Both men have been temporarily suspended by the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC), the national body that, by federal law, regulates individuals (except lawyers) that provide Canadian immigration, citizenship and international-student advising services.
Benito became an immigration consultant after leaving provincial politics in 2012. In his marketing, he touts his time as an MLA and his membership in the council.
Benito served as Progressive Conservative MLA for Edmonton-Mill Woods from 2008 until 2012 . His term in politics was marked by controversy. Benito made a campaign promise that, if elected, he would donate his salary to charity. He later claimed that he didn’t mean he’d give away his entire salary, just a part of it.(cite: Wikipedia)
Benito blamed his wife for a failure to pay property taxes on their rental properties.Benito later paid the taxes, but only after his picture appeared on the Edmonton Journal‘s front page under the headline, “Backbencher hasn’t paid property taxes on rental properties.”[4
“[They] took advantage of people desperate to stay in Canada,” federal Crown prosecutor Erin Eacott told the judge in sentencing arguments. “It’s aggravating [they] built a business on the backs of hiring illegal foreign nationals and paid them less than the minimum wage.”
Justice Avril Inglis found that Carl Benito bears a higher level of moral culpability than his son because he was the one who offered the illegal jobs. “Both of you abused a position of trust,” Inglis said.
Carl Benito admitted he also submitted fraudulent study permits on behalf of clients who each were charged $3,000 for the false paperwork.
Under Immigration and Refugee Protection Act regulations, to obtain a study permit, a foreign nationals have to prove they have enough money to support themselves and any family members while they attend school.
Benito advised clients they needed to be able to show they had about $17,000 in their bank account.
When they told Benito they didn’t have that much money in their accounts, he temporarily loaned them the $17,000.
Benito and his employees referred to the $17,000 as “show money” and charged between $200 to $500 for the loan.
‘It won’t ever happen again’
The two men pleaded guilty on the eve of a seven-week jury trial. Their guilty pleas and lack of criminal records were considered to be mitigating circumstances.
Before the sentences were imposed, the judge gave both men a chance to address the court.
Charles Benito, dressed in denim overalls and work boots because he had come directly from school, was emotional as he spoke to the judge. “I want to say I’m sorry,” he said. “It won’t ever happen again.”
The judge praised him for choosing a new career path in plumbing and noted that Charles Benito is on the NAIT honor roll.
Carl Benito read from a prepared statement. “All of this brought shame to me and my family for which I am really sincerely sorry,” he said. “My name and my family have suffered greatly since June of 2018.”
Carlo Benito said he is retired, but is looking forward to completing 100 hours of community service. “I plan to make some serious efforts to once again make a difference in our community,” he told the court.
“As long as we are alive, we must move forward,” Carl Benito added. “I don’t like to think that past mistakes will always define my life.”
Timeline of immigration fraud cases involving Filipinos:
1992, Winnipeg: Immigration consultant and Realtor Claro Paqueo was found guilty and sentenced to house arrest
2019, Winnipeg: Fred Arrojado received a one-year conditional sentence and no fine for practicing as an unlicensed consultant.
Halifax , Nova Scotia, 2019: Businessman Hector Mantolino was sentenced to two-years in jail for exploiting foreign workers.
Toronto, 2015: Imelda “Mel” Fronda Saluma, a 47-year-old divorced mother of three was sentenced to six years in jail for defrauding victims more than $2.3 million and was also ordered to pay restitution of $1.5 million to her victims.