NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – North Texas construction company Speed Fab Crete will pay the government $3 million for its role in a scheme to illegally employ undocumented immigrants.
Five individuals pleaded guilty in connection with the crime.
In a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Texas-based builder admitted it illegally employed undocumented immigrants not authorized to work in the United States, and agreed to forfeit $3 million to the U.S. Treasury for use in promoting law enforcement activities related to immigration enforcement.
Per the agreement – which requires Speed Fab Crete to cooperate with the government to ensure it will not violate immigration laws in future – the company pledged to continue to use E-Verify, the federal government’s web-based employment eligibility verification system; to comply with new internal verification procedures; to conduct company-wide training on immigration compliance; and to discipline those who attempt to employ unauthorized workers.
The company’s three owners, Carl Eugene Hall, Ronald Alan Hamm, and David Leon Bloxom, are jointly and severally liable for the full amount if Speed Fab Crete does not fulfill its financial obligations under the non-prosecution agreement.
Earlier this month, Hall pleaded guilty to conspiracy to unlawfully harbor illegal aliens, a felony. Mark Sevier, owner of Take Charge Staffing, a temp agency used by Speed Fab Crete, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to unlawfully harbor illegal aliens. Hamm, Bloxom, and Robert Edwin James, the company’s Chief Financial Officer, pleaded guilty to unlawful employment of illegal aliens, a misdemeanor offense.
“An inspection revealed these defendants knowingly hired dozens of unauthorized workers, in flagrant disregard of U.S. law. Worse yet, rather than working with ICE to resolve their violations, they attempted to deceive the government,” said U.S. Attorney Nealy Cox. “We will not allow employers to flout our laws.”
“All three of Speed Fab Crete’s officials pleaded guilty to federal charges, in connection to them knowingly hiring unauthorized workers, and attempting to deceive the government,” said Ryan L. Spradlin, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations Dallas. “And now they are paying the price for their criminal conduct. It’s criminal investigations like these, that not only exemplify HSI’s mission to protect the integrity of the U.S. immigration system, but also serve as a warning to business owners willing to hire an illegitimate workforce. You can not only expect a hefty fine but a prison sentence as well.”
According to their plea papers and Speed Fab Crete’s factual statement, the defendants admitted that they attempted to disguise the employment of unauthorized workers at Speed Fab Crete by placing them on the payroll of Take Charge Staffing, then lied to the government, stating that the unauthorized workers were terminated from employment at Speed Fab Crete.
Per plea papers, after an I-9 inspection of Speed Fab Crete’s employment records revealed that 43 of the company’s 106 employees were undocumented immigrants not authorized to work in the United States, Speed Fab Crete entered into a settlement with Immigration & Customs Enforcement, pledging to rectify the situation.
Homeland Security Investigations agreed not to conduct any subsequent I-9 inspection for a period of six months, giving Speed Fab Crete the time and opportunity to rectify the situation by employing legal workers.
In furtherance of that effort, in February 2016, the owners of Speed Fab Crete met with Take Charge Staffing to discuss replenishing their workforce. At the initial meeting, Hall asked Sevier to simply transfer the unauthorized workers from Speed Fab Crete’s payroll system onto Take Charge Staffing’s payroll, and have them assigned to Speed Fab. At the time, Sevier refused, promising to supply legal workers instead.
Over the ensuing six months, Sevier and Take Charge struggled to find employees to replace Speed Fab Crete’s unauthorized workers. In September 2016, Sevier agreed to Hall’s plan.
On Friday, September 23, 2016, Speed Fab Crete simultaneously terminated 39 unauthorized workers and sent 23 of them straight to Take Charge Staffing, where they were hired and assigned to Speed Fab Crete. All 23 retuned to work at Speed Fab Crete the following Monday.
From September 2016 until August 2017, Take Charge Staffing sent invoices for the unauthorized workers to Speed Fab Crete — all of which were authorized by Hall.
On October 11, 2016, Speed Fab Crete followed up with Immigration & Customs Enforcement, sending a letter that stated all 39 of the unauthorized workers were released and were “no longer working at Speed Fab Crete Corporation.” Each of the individuals and the company admitted that this was a false and misleading statement to the government.
Hall and Sevier are facing up to five years in federal prison. Bloxom, Hamm, and James are facing up to six months in federal prison. As part of the plea agreements, each individual is required to pay a $69,000 fine, equal to $3,000 per alien, the statutory maximum.