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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. 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.
  3. Restaurant Manager Receives Prison Time for Harboring Illegal Workers

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    The manager of a Mexican restaurant in Ottawa, Kansas, Alex Sanchez, Jr., was sentenced to six months in federal prison for harboring undocumented workers. This sentence resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations. Sanchez’s prison sentence will be followed by six months home confinement and supervised release for three years. Additionally, Sanchez must pay a $4,000 fine.

    In the plea agreement, Sanchez admitted that in 2011 he paid a fine of $22,589 fine for I-9 form violations. Despite having to pay this fine, he continued to employ workers in 2012 who he knew were not legally in the United States. Additionally, he provided housing for his undocumented workers and paid them in cash.
  4. Indian couple pleads guilty to employing Undocumented Workers

    By Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser

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    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.

  5. Pennsylvania Corporation Forfeits $1 Million for Immigration Violations

    by Bruce Buchanan, PC

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    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 04:26 PM by BBuchanan

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