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  1. Restaurant Owner Going to Prison for Harboring Undocumented Workers

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    An owner of two restaurants in Ukiah, California, Yaowapha Ritdet, was sentenced to serve 24 months in prison for harboring for profit and corruptly endeavoring to obstruct the internal revenue laws. According to documents filed with the court, Ritdet hired Thai nationals who were illegally present in the United States to work at her restaurants, Ruen Tong Thai Cuisine and Walter Café. Ritdet underpaid these employees, paid them in cash, and instructed them not to speak to anyone about their immigration status. Ritdet also did not pay employment taxes on the cash wages. Ritdet filed false individual income tax returns for 2007 through 2011 that underreported the gross receipts, sales, and income she received from her two restaurants.

    In addition to prison, Ritdet was ordered to serve three years of supervised release and to pay approximately $567,755.65 in restitution, including $70,768 to underpaid employees and $496,987 to the Internal Revenue Service.
  2. Waste Management Supervisors Going to Prison for Unlawful Hiring Scheme

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    Two low-level Houston supervisors of Waste Management, Rudy Martinez and Israel Arquimides Martinez, were sentenced to over seven years in federal prison for stealing the identities of U.S. citizens and using them to hire more than 100 undocumented workers. The men both face deportation upon completion of their prison sentences.

    The two men were convicted by a federal jury in April 2016 of 18 counts, including knowingly conspiring to employ unauthorized immigrants, encouraging them to reside in the U.S., and aggravated identity theft. Additionally, Rudy Martinez, was convicted of obstruction of justice by testifying falsely under oath and threatening a witness. Three higher ranking managers at Waste Management took plea deals and were called to testify by the prosecution.

    The undocumented workers involved in the identity theft scheme worked at a site run by a Waste Management subcontractor. The workers were fired and then rehired in 2012 with other people's identities. Some of these workers, who face deportation, also testified about the hiring scheme.

    This is another example of the potential for criminal liability if one knowingly hires many undocumented workers, especially where identity theft is used.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
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