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By Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser
An Indian Kansas couple pleaded guilty in federal court to unlawfully employing undocumented workers. The husband pleaded guilty to engaging in a pattern or practice of employing illegal workers and failure to collect federal income and Social Security taxes. His wife pleaded guilty to an unlicensed money remitting business charge. As part of their plea agreements, the couple agreed to forfeit more than $700,000 in cash, money from bank accounts, and gold seized by the government in this case. Those assets represent proceeds of their unlawful activities.
This case arose when inspectors from the Kansas Department of Revenue’s Alcohol Beverage Control division observed employees at the Route 56 Express gas station and convenience store in McPherson selling tobacco products to minors. The investigators determined that several employees at Route 56 Express were not lawfully in the United States, nor were they authorized to be employed. Local and federal investigators then assisted, which led to the return of the federal indictments in June.
These charges carry maximum penalties of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The couple’s sentencings are set for November 25.
by Bruce Buchanan, PC
M.D. Basciani and Sons, Inc., a Pennsylvania corporation, has pled guilty to harboring undocumented workers at the Red Hill Mushroom Farm in Independence, Louisiana. The corporation was ordered to forfeit over $1 million in illegal proceeds that it obtained as a result of employing the undocumented workers. Additionally, the corporation was placed on three years of probation. The farm’s manager and another of its supervisory employees have pled guilty to a pattern and practice of employing illegal aliens at the farm and are awaiting sentencing.
On June 24, 2013, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents served a Notice of Suspect Documents (NSD) on M.D. Bascani and Sons, stating certain employees appeared not to be authorized for employment in the United States. According to court documents,instead of terminating the employees listed in the NSD when they could not provide valid work authorization, M.D. Bascani and Sons told the employees that wanted to continue working at the farm to do so under different names, and how to obtain false identification documents in other names. Once the employees had acquired the fraudulent documents, the employees were “rehired” under their new names. As a result, the employment records appear to reflect that the workers identified in the NSD were terminated and new workers were hired.
During the audit/investigation, ICE agents used an informant and provided him with a fictitious Lawful Permanent Resident card and a fictitious Social Security card as well as wiring him for audio and video. The informant met with the manager of Red Hill Mushroom Farm at which time M.D. Basciani and Sons agreed to hire the informant. The manager stated he would need to come back with different identification. Thereafter, the informant returned with fraudulent documents. The informant was put to work on the farm a few days later.
According to Section Chief of Worksite Enforcement for ICE, Donald Buechner, ICE is focusing more of its resources on seeking criminal actions against employers who continue to employ undocumented workers after being informed by ICE of their undocumented status. Recently, ICE levied a civil fine of $2.25 million on Broetje Orchards of Prescott, Washington, because of knowingly employing almost 950 undocumented workers, who had been previously listed on a NSD and had not provided any valid work authorization documents.
Updated 07-17-2015 at 05:26 PM by BBuchanan
By Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser
In the largest criminal immigration forfeiture in ICE history, five franchisees and operators of 7-Eleven stores located on Long Island, New York and in Virginia pleaded guilty to committing wire fraud and concealing and harboring undocumented workers employed at their stores. When sentencing hearings are held in federal court at a later date, the defendants also face up to 10 years in prison.
The defendants owned, managed, and controlled a total of 14 franchised 7-Eleven stores. They allegedly hired dozens of undocumented immigrants to work at the stores, provided them with stolen identities of U.S. citizens, housed them at residential properties owned by the defendants and stole their wages. In all, the defendants' activities generated over $182 million in proceeds which they split among themselves.
As part of their plea agreements with the government, the defendants will:
- forfeit the franchise rights to 14 franchised stores - ten in New York and four in Virginia;
- forfeit five houses in New York worth more than $1.3 million; and
- pay the sum of $2,621,114.97 in restitution for the back wages they stole from their workers.
ICE took the opportunity to warn employers that this case should serve as an example to employers who "seek to profit on the back of an illegal workforce". This record-setting forfeiture is a reminder of last year's record-setting penalty of $34 million against Infosys Limited which resulted from that company's settlement with ICE-HSI for visa fraud and I-9 violations. Be sure to follow my blog, and stay up to date on these headline-grabbing forfeitures and penalties.
Click here for a copy of the ICE press release.
An Ohio grand jury returned a 23-count indictment charging six people for their roles in a conspiracy to hire undocumented workers at a chain of restaurants in Ohio, called “Mariachi Locos” and “Mariachi Cocos” and pay them less than minimum wage. Prosecutors are also seeking for defendants to forfeit more than $16 million generated by the restaurants.
According to the indictment, the defendants engaged in the practice of hiring undocumented workers who were illegally present in the United States and conspired to shield these workers from detection by paying them in cash, excluding them from payrolls, leasing housing for the workers, and aiding the workers in obtaining fraudulent work documentation.
Prosecutors allege the defendants’ employment practices enabled them to enrich themselves because they paid the undocumented workers less than minimum wage, and did not pay the workers for overtime hours worked.
The charges include harboring undocumented workers, conspiracy to harbor undocumented workers, aiding and abetting the harboring of undocumented workers, mail fraud, and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Two defendants are also charged with making false statements to federal law enforcement officers.
This indictment is just one more example of the high cost of committing employment-related immigration violations, especially when it involves harboring undocumented workers.