British businessman tries to smuggle family members

A British businessman must pay $5,000 (3,535 EUR) and forfeit a motor home after pleading he tried to smuggle family members into North Dakota at the Canadian border.

David Hartley, 47, a native of Liverpool, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge of improper entry by aliens. His case will be transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which will decide whether Hartley is deported.

In federal court Wednesday, Hartley was fined $5,000 (3,535 EUR) and was ordered to forfeit the motor home he tried to drive into North Dakota.

Hartley was arrested in June at a border port of entry north of Minot. Authorities said his wife and two of his daughters were hiding under a slide-out bed, and another daughter was discovered hiding in a sleeper sofa.

A Web site for Wilcox Homes of Ocala, Florida, lists Hartley as president and CEO of the company. A 2005 personal financial statement entered at an earlier hearing showed that Hartley had assets of $16 million (11.31 million EUR) and a net worth of $15.5 million (10.96 million EUR).

Hartley told U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Klein on Wednesday that he was surprised about the difficulty in trying to move his family to the United States but said, "I've got no hostility against the system."

Authorities say in court documents that Hartley has "multiple convictions" in Britain for theft and at least one drug conviction.

He originally was charged in federal court with four felony counts of transporting and harboring illegal aliens. His wife and his 21-year-old daughter did not have visas, the federal complaint said.

Kirschner said Hartley was bringing his family to the United States because he feared for his and their safety in Britain. Hartley has applied for asylum.

"I don't think the government understands the threat against the Hartley family," Kirschner said. "These people were really in fear for their lives."

Kirschner would not elaborate on the threats when asked about them after the court hearing. He said two Minneapolis lawyers will take over the case.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova