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  1. Restaurant owner pleads guilty to harboring unauthorized workers

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    A restaurant owner pleaded guilty to harboring undocumented workers for profit and tax evasion, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations and the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation.

    Yaowapha Ritdet of Ukiah, California admitted she knowingly hired Thai nationals who were illegally present in the United States to work at her restaurants, Ruen Tong Thai Cuisine and the Walter Café.

    Ritdet further admitted she underpaid employees and instructed them not to speak to anyone about their immigration status and willfully filed false individual income tax returns for 2007 through 2011, failing to disclose income received from her two restaurants, as well as rental income and a foreign bank account. She also admitted failing to accurately report employment taxes for her restaurant workers, who were paid in cash. Ritdet is scheduled to be sentenced on February 22, 2017.
  2. Attorney and Spouse Forfeit $1 Million for Visa Fraud

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    A New York immigration lawyer Loreto Kudera, and his wife, Hazel Kudera, the owner of several medical staffing agencies, pled guilty and forfeited $1 million after admitting to giving false information to U.S. immigration authorities when applying for H1-B visas for foreign nurses, according to plea agreement.

    Hazel Kudera owned multiple staffing agencies in New York that specialized in providing nurses to hospitals, outpatient and skilled nursing facilities. According to the government, Hazel and Loreto Kudera submitted at least 100 fraudulent applications to authorities, and profited from filing fees collected from the nurses and from the health care facilities that paid Hazel Kudera’s staffing agencies.

    Hazel and Loreto Kudera falsely stated that the foreign nurses would be working in specialty occupations at prevailing wage rates when in actuality they were going to work as licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or registered nurses (RNs) at much lower rates of pay.

    As part of the alleged scam, Hazel Kudera falsified a staffing agreement between NYC Healthcare Staffing and Dewitt Rehabilitation listing job positions that did not exist, such as clinical coordinator and health care quality assurance manager, in order to cover up the false job titles she provided to USICS.
  3. Federal Jury Convicts Company Managers of Unlawfully Employing Undocumented Workers

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    A federal jury convicted two Salvadorian nationals, Rudy Alexander Martinez, 36, and Israel Arquimides Martinez, 44, of Houston, Texas on all counts as charged in a conspiracy to employ 10 or more undocumented workers within a 12-month period. Guilty verdicts were returned following a two-week jury trial. Both were also convicted of encouraging and inducing undocumented workers to reside in the United States, and conspiracy to do same, as well as aggravated identity theft.

    Rudy Martinez was a commercial route manager and Israel Martinez was the residential operations lead driver for a waste disposal company. From about July 30, 2008, until about April 24, 2012, both defendants conspired to hire and continued to employ workers at the company that they knew were not authorized to work in the U.S.

    Internal audits were conducted, after which the defendants and co-conspirators failed to take corrective measures to ensure the company hired workers authorized to work in the U.S. They also continued to employ undocumented workers after receiving information, in some cases from the workers themselves, which indicated the person was not authorized to work in the U.S.
    The defendants encouraged the undocumented workers to obtain false documentation and assigned false identities to them. In some cases, they also provided them with employment documents related to the false identity the workers assumed so they could remain employed as helpers at the waste disposal company’s Houston location.

    On January 31, 2012, the defendants and their co-conspirators “fired” at least 10 helpers they knew to be unauthorized workers purportedly because they failed to supply documentation establishing they were legally present and authorized to work in the U.S. During the “termination” process, the defendants informed and encouraged the unauthorized workers to assume the identity of actual U.S. citizens or individuals who had legal status to reside and work here. They also informed them that they could come back to work if they got “good papers” belonging to other individuals. Following their termination, the defendants and their co-conspirators assigned false identities to the terminated workers and assisted them with obtaining papers to use for employment and payroll purposes. The defendants then “rehired” at least 10 workers under their assumed identities.

    For conspiracy to encourage and induce undocumented workers to reside or encouraging or inducing them to reside in the United States, both face up to 10 years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine. For unlawfully employing undocumented workers or the conspiracy to so, they also face up to 5 years in prison as well as a $250,000 fine. In addition, the conviction for aggravated identity theft also carries a mandatory 2-year which must be served consecutively to any other prison term imposed. Sentencing is scheduled for July 29.
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