Portuguese National Pleads Not Guilty To Reentering United States
The United States Attorney for the District of Vermont and the Swanton Sector Office of the United States Border Patrol announce that Paulo Abelha, 49, a citizen of Portugal, pleaded not guilty today in United States District Court in Burlington to an indictment which charges him with reentering the United States after having been twice deported. U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy ordered that Abelha be held without bail pending trial, which has not been scheduled. Abelha has been detained since his arrest on August 20.
According to court records, Abelha is a citizen of Portugal who moved to the United States in 1971 with his parents. In 1994, after he was convicted of violent felonies and served a prison sentence in Massachusetts, Abelha was deported to Portugal. In July 2016, federal officials learned that Abelha had at some point come back to the United States illegally and was living in Fall River. He was taken into custody and again deported to Portugal on August 16.
Three days later, on the evening of August 19, Canadian law enforcement officers notified Border Patrol agents in Vermont that a man had been dropped off at a place just north of the border and had then walked into the United States near Alburgh. Border Patrol agents went to the area and soon found Abelha, who was carrying a backpack. Documents in Abelha's possession showed that he had flown into Montreal from Portugal earlier that day. Abelha did not enter the United States through a port-of-entry and is ineligible to return to the United States.
The United States Attorney emphasizes that the charge in the indictment is merely an accusation, and that the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until he is proven guilty.
If convicted, Abelha faces up to 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. The actual sentence would be determined with reference to federal sentencing guidelines.
The Swanton Sector Border Patrol is responsible for securing the land border between ports of entry in Vermont as well as New Hampshire and northeastern New York. The assistance of citizens is invaluable in helping the U.S. Border Patrol accomplish their border security mission and they welcome community members to help them keep our nation’s borders safe by reporting suspicious activity at 1-800-689-3362.
For more on CBP’s mission at our nation’s ports of entry with CBP officers and along U.S. borders with Border Patrol agents, please visit the Border Security section of the CBP website.
Abelha is represented by Assistant Federal Defender David McColgin. The prosecutor is Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Waples.