'A disgrace to the criminal justice system' - Meredith law firm takes on Brazilian’s deportation case

 10 12 Renato Filippi

Renato Filippi, who worked undercover for the federal government after being caught entering the country illegally, is facing deportation in a matter of weeks. (Courtesy Photo/Tom Roy, NH Union Leader)



MEREDITH — Attorney Bob McDaniel is not afraid of controversy, even if it means challenging the president of the United States.

The Inter-Lakes High School graduate who went on to serve in the U.S. Attorney’s Office before returning to his hometown of Meredith has filed a federal lawsuit in Concord in an effort to stall the deportation of 58-year-old Renato Filippi of Nashua.

Filippi is a Brazilian immigrant who, although he entered the country illegally, has worked as a government informant to help prosecute human traffickers and, in recent years, has been operations manager for a New Hampshire company that has created additional jobs for Americans.

The McDaniel Law Office filed papers on Oct. 2 on Filippi’s behalf, to stop a process that McDaniel believes is both wrong and unconstitutional.

Filippi is among those who entered the United States illegally when economic conditions in his native Brazil became intolerable.

“It was 2002,” said Filippi. “There was no work. Crime was everywhere. I could not provide for my wife and child. I came to America to find a better life.”

He took advantage of an offer from smugglers to make an “excursion to the U.S.” He was taken through Mexico and swam across the Rio Grande into Texas where he was met by the U.S. Border Patrol.

The federal authorities arresting him offered him a deal: If he would provide information about the smugglers who arranged his passage from Brazil, and work undercover to help prosecute other traffickers, he would receive a Social Security card, a driver’s license, and a work authorization allowing him to stay indefinitely in the United States.

Filippi agreed, and served as a confidential informant for the U.S. Government for nine years.

“It almost cost him his life,” McDaniel said.

Filippi went undercover into a prison and elsewhere, exposing criminals, including international terrorists with connections to Europe and the Middle East. When word got out that Filippi was assisting the American government, his life was threatened, and getting his wife and daughter safely to the United States became a priority.

Federal law enforcement officials, including those in the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and foreign intelligence personnel, lauded Filippi’s work, and he was able to legally bring his wife and daughter into the country. Both are U.S. citizens, and today his daughter works for Homeland Security.

“But there’s no path to citizenship” for someone who entered the country illegally, McDaniel said. “Illegal immigrants known to the government are given Orders of Supervision which require them to provide their contact information and to check in with Immigration on a regular basis.”

During the Obama Administration, the government focused on deporting those who committed crimes, but they ignored the others, as long as they were not criminals, he said.

“That changed on Jan. 20,” McDaniel said, referring to the inauguration of President Donald Trump. “Deportation was expanded from criminals only to everybody.”

On Sept. 5, Filippi attended his routine check-in at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Manchester, as he had done for 14 years.

“Each time, they stamp my form and say, ‘OK, you are all set,’” Filippi said. “But this day was different. The man said to me, ‘You have until October to show us an airline ticket to Brazil with a departure date no later than Nov. 6. If you do not, you will be arrested.’”

Stunned, Filippi asked why this was happening, after U.S. officials had told him he could stay in the country.

“I asked, ‘What did I do wrong?’ He said only, ‘You are being deported.’”

“He was swept up in an unconstitutional roundup of good people,” McDaniel said.

Charlie Morgan of Bedford considers Filippi his right-hand man. Filippi has worked for Morgan’s four companies for more than a decade, starting out a minimum wage and rising to operations manager. Morgan called Filippi responsible, self-directed, and hard-working, and said his management allowed Morgan to expand and create more jobs.

“I am heartbroken,” Morgan said, “and absolutely, unequivocally disappointed in my government.”

“They just want to tear the family apart,” McDaniel said, calling it a disgrace to the criminal justice system.

Immigration lawyers referred Filippi to the McDaniel Law Office, which began by contacting ICE. The office, McDaniel said, “is like a chamber of despair.”

“The perplexing thing,” he said, “is what advantage is there to the government? He worked for the government, has employment in New Hampshire, and to what end?”

McDaniel is working with Manchester immigration attorney George Bruno to halt Filippi’s deportation.

“Obviously, time is short,” Bruno said.

McDaniel said he is not expecting a warm reception from the federal court, which is likely to dismiss the case.

“We have to pursue every other remedy,” he said, noting that the next step would be to file with the U.S. Court of Appeals First Circuit in Boston. There also may be some administrative remedies within the law enforcement community, he said.

“But we’re not going to give up. This case is a test of American decency and humanity. Wherever you stand on immigration, which admittedly is a hot-button issue, people need to know what is happening now.

“Imagine being torn from your spouse and children, your job, your school system, your way of life, with 60 days’ notice. … This government has become cruel and heartless, and this is something that’s keeping us awake at night. It makes you feel so powerless.”

 10 16 McDaniel

Laurie and Robert E. McDaniel of the McDaniel Law Office in Meredith are working to halt the deportation of Renato Filippi. (Courtesy photo)


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Pizza Hut land owner says he’s tried for months to renew lease


LACONIA — Gerald MacNeil, who has owned the lot at 1135 Union Ave. for more than 40 years, said he has been trying to contact GC Pizza Hut for months to attempt to renegotiate the lease agreement for the restaurant, but could get no response from the corporation that operates the Laconia pizzeria that closed its doors after business Tuesday.

MacNeil's account differs from that provided on Tuesday by the store manager, who said that the corporation was attempting to extend or renegotiate its lease with the land owner but was unable to contact him.

MacNeil, who on Wednesday morning returned a phone message left on Tuesday, said that he built the Pizza Hut restaurant in 1972 and ran it, as well as nine others and four under construction, until 1973 when he sold the chain of businesses to Capital Pizza Hut but retained ownership of the land. Capital Pizza Hut went bankrupt at the beginning of 2017, and GC Pizza Hut acquired many restaurants across the Northeast, including the Laconia store.

Knowing that the long-term lease was approaching expiration, MacNeil made many attempts to initiate a discussion about a new lease for the property, he said.

"My Realtor, who has been authorized to sell the property if they don't renew, has given them more than 20 calls," MacNeil said. "They're not communicating at all. I've given them all the calls I'm going to give, I'm not chasing them. I sure hate to see it go."

While he hoped that the restaurant would continue operating on his land, he is now seeking a buyer or new lessee.

Late on Tuesday night, Paul Hansen, director of marketing for GC Pizza Hut issued a short press release that stated that "Franchise owner, GC Pizza Hut, was unable to renew the lease, which forced the closure, effective Tuesday, October 17, 2017."

The release quoted Lewis Joyner, chief operations officer for the corporation, as saying, "We hope to open an all-new location in the future and invite our friends in Laconia to visit the location in Tilton until then."

Hansen did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

10 19 Pizza Hut closes sign

A sign on the door at the Laconia Pizza Hut says "After decades of serving the residents an tourists of New Hampshire's Lakes Region, Laconia Pizza Hut is closing. We have enjoyed serving America's best pizza to the local residents, leaf peepers and motorcyclists rumbling through town. Unfortunately GC Pizza Hut was unable to renew the lease for this location. Our last day of serving this community is Tuesday, Oct. 17, 217. We thank you for your patronage and look forward to serving you at our other locations. (Adam Drapho/Laconia Daily Sun)



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County to push for regional police/fire services


LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners agreed that regionalization of fire and police departments within the county has the potential to save taxpayers money and say that it will be one of the issues they hope to explore further during the budget discussions in the months ahead.
Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton), who chaired a study committee in Sanbornton which earlier this examined the possible regionalization of fire services, said that he saw a lot of support for the regionalization of fire and police services in meetings the committee had with surrounding communities.
He said that Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid has already regionalized fire services from an operational standpoint but not from an organizational standpoint.
“We need to bring everyone interested in regionalization together to make it happen,” said DeVoy, who asked why there should be 10 police chiefs and 10 fire chiefs in a county with a population of about 60,000.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) supported DeVoy's suggestion, which came at the opening of a budget review session by commissioners Wednesday afternoon.
“It's an important issue. You can make the argument that the failure to regionalize services has already cost taxpayers a lot of money,” said Taylor.
The report issued by the Sanbornton committee which DeVoy chaired said that towns in the county are being placed in an unsustainable position due to the lack of progress on the issue and that someone like the County Commissioners needs to take a leadership role in pushing for regionalization.