Feds Criminally Charge Corporate Executives and Management for Knowingly Employing Undocumented Immigrants
Federal authorities charged four executives at Speed Fab-Crete Corporation, a Kennedale, Texas construction and precast concrete company, and the owner of Take Charge Staffing, a Texas workforce staffing agency, for conspiracy and other felony offenses related to knowingly employing undocumented immigrants, individuals who were not lawfully authorized for employment in the United States.
The Allegations: Employing Undocumented Immigrants
Speed Fab-Crete Corporation (Speed Fab) “is . . . [a] commercial builder, specializing in design-build applications.” The company’s website notes that its “expansive building expertise. . . has made [it] one of the most sought after general contractors in Texas” that has built “schools, government facilities, auto dealerships, churches, and many other specialty facilities” across Texas. Take Charge Staffing is a Texas-based staffing agency that provides companies with operational and skilled labor temporary employees.
The charges stem from violations of the Immigration & Control Act of 1986 (the “IRCA”) that requires all employers, like Speed Fab and Take Charge Staffing, to verify the identification and authorization to work in the United States for each employee by completing the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification (“Form I-9”). Employers must provide employees the Form I-9 no later than the Employee’s first date of employment. Employees must complete Section 1 of Form I-9 and present it to the employer, who must complete Section 2 of Form I-9, no later than three days from the employee’s first day of employment. When completing Section 2, employers or their authorized agents must conduct an in-person review of each employee’s original identification and work authorization documentation. The documents must be real and relate to the person presenting them to the employer. While employers are not “required” to be document experts, federal law applies the reasonable person standard: would a reasonable person believe the documents are real and relate to the person presenting them? The IRCA requires employers to store the Form I-9s and, in certain circumstances, copies of the identification and employment authorization documents. Upon receipt of an administrative subpoena or a Notice of Inspection (NOI), employers must turn over the Form I-9s to the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
In October of 2015, DHS issued Speed Fab an NOI as part of a random inspection of the company’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification records (I-9 Records). The company complied with the NOI and turned over its I-9 Records to DHS. Following an inspection, DHS officials determined that Speed Fab was employing 41 undocumented employees. Speed Fab subsequently entered into a confidential settlement agreement with DHS that provided for the termination of 39 undocumented individuals. Two of the original 41 were able to provide evidence of lawful employment eligibility in the United States.
After resolving the October of 2005 NOI, Speed Fab entered into an agreement with Take Charge Staffing, a local staffing agency, who would provide temporary workers to Speed Fab. According to federal officials, 23 of the temporary employees Take Charge Staffing sent to Speed Fab were from the original 39 employees terminated in accordance with Speed Fab’s agreement resolving the 2015 NOI. This arrangement, DHS alleges, was nothing more than a conspiracy to knowingly harboring and employing undocumented immigrants and those not authorized for employment in the United States.
The United States Attorney for the United States District Court in Dallas, Texas charged the five with conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens as well as knowingly employing illegal aliens, both in violation of Section 1324, Title 8 of the United States Code. Those charged included four Speed Fab executives, owners, Carl Eugene Hall, David Leon Bloxom, and Chief Financial Officer, Robert Edwin James, as well as Take Charge Staffing owner, Mark Sevier.
The five executives have agreed to enter guilty pleas. Mark Sevier and Carl Eugene Hall are each facing up to five years in federal prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. The three other defendants pled to lesser offenses and each face up to six months in federal prison, one year of supervised release, and a fine of $3,000 per Speed Fab undocumented employee.
What This Means for Employers
The charges brought against the executives are part of an immigration policy that focuses on what has been called the central reason for the flux of undocumented immigrants into the United States—for employment. Federal immigration officials have made a commitment to investigate and prosecute those who are employing undocumented immigrants.
In the recent fiscal year, nearly 4,000 NOIs were issued to U.S. employers—a several thousand percent increase from years prior. Moreover, a significant portion of the NOIs was served on New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York employers, showing increased workplace enforcement in all three states. What an employer does when served with an NOI proves critical in ensuring a resolution that is amicable to both the employer and federal immigration authorities, with a goal of limiting financial exposure as well as possible criminal prosecution. Given this, employers must not respond to NOIs or other federal administrative subpoenas related to employment immigration compliance without retaining the most effective and aggressive of employment immigration compliance attorneys.