Ariz. employer pleads guilty to hiring illegal immigrants

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PHOENIX (AP) -- A southern Arizona contractor pleaded guilty in Tucson on Friday to knowingly hiring illegal immigrants in the first case in the state in which authorities charged such a violator with a crime rather than just impose a fine.

Ivan Hardt, president Sun Dry Wall & Stucco Inc. of Sierra Vista, faces up to six months in jail for his misdemeanor illegal hiring conviction when he is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 26 by U.S. District Judge Raner Collins.

Hardt also pleaded guilty to a felony charge of conspiring to harbor illegal immigrants, but his lawyer says the felony conviction will be dropped if he agrees to pay the government $450,000.

Hardt's attorney, Michael Piccarreta, says his client plans to pay the government $450,000.