A judge fined the owner of a popular restaurant and bakery nearly $400,000 Thursday for employing illegal immigrants in a rare case of federal prosecutors charging an employer with illegal hiring.
Michel Malecot, 59, was spared prison time and his fines and penalties were below the $650,000 sought by federal prosecutors.
Malecot, a naturalized U.S. citizen from France and a major donor to local charities, appeared to hire illegal immigrants at The French Gourmet out of compassion rather than to take advantage of them, said U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan, who also ordered five years of probation.
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The case has drawn attention from restaurant owners because criminal prosecutions of employers are fairly rare. Federal prosecutors face high burdens of proof to show that employers knowing hired illegal immigrants.