Arizona Man Gets Probation In Illegal Hiring Case

03/29/2012 04:19 pm ET

PHOENIX -- An Arizona contractor who pleaded guilty to knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants was sentenced to probation in the first case in the state in which authorities pursued criminal charges instead of just fines against an employer in an illegal hiring case.

Ivan Hardt, owner of Sun Dry Wall & Stucco Inc. of Sierra Vista, was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Raner Collins to one year of probation on the misdemeanor.

The 49-year-old also must pay the government $450,000. Hardt's attorney, Michael Piccarreta, said his client already has paid $300,000 and plans to square up the debt.

Hardt's case represented a new approach by federal authorities in Arizona – focusing on criminal charges in illegal hiring cases rather than only civil penalties, which some viewed as the cost of doing business.