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- 05-01-2012, 08:51 PM #1
Wash. farm fined $1M for using illegal immigrants
Tuesday, May. 01, 2012
Wash. farm fined $1M for using illegal immigrants
By MANUEL VALDES - Associated Press
SEATTLE -- A Washington state organic farm has been fined $1 million for firing, then rehiring illegal immigrants following a federal audit.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez leveled the fine recommended by federal prosecutors against Duvall-based HerbCo International Inc. on Tuesday in a Seattle federal court.
Three company officials, including CEO Ted Andrews, also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges.
Prosecutors say HerbCo fired nearly 90 illegal immigrants because of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement audit. But they say it rehired some of those workers, paid them cash and asked them to work at night because production began to drop.
A HerbCo employee tipped off ICE to the scheme, sending agents pictures of envelopes full of cash.
The $1 million will be paid over five years.
source: http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/201...g-illegal.htmlU.S. Constitution - Article IV, Section 4: GUARANTEES AMERICA FROM INVASION!
- 05-01-2012, 09:32 PM #2
- Join Date
- Apr 2012
Why 5 years to pay the fine? So that they have the ability to rehire again next year, too? Should'nt a million dollar fine be a felony instead of misdemeanor for the officers of the company? We are still losing!!!
- 05-02-2012, 12:33 AM #3
‘Silent raid’ costs Duvall farm
$1 mil. fine expected in illegal worker probe
BY LEVI PULKKINEN, SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF
Updated 03:29 p.m., Tuesday, May 1, 2012
The trouble at HerbCo started in April 2011 with what’ve become known as a “silent raid.” Immigration officials going over the Duvall herb producer’s books found that three-fifths of HerbCo’s employees couldn’t show they had permission to work in the United States. Within days they were fired.
Then two dozen were hired back.
For that, the company was fined $1 million on Tuesday. Three managers – including HerbCo owner Ted Andrews – also plead guilty to misdemeanor charges and were sentenced to probation as part of a plea deal struck with federal prosecutors in Seattle.
"These company executives were looking to help themselves," U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan said in a statement. "They knew they were breaking the law with their secret night shift, off the book workers and the envelopes stuffed with cash.
"Employers need to know there is a heavy price to pay - in this case a million dollars - for knowingly breaking the law by hiring ineligible workers."
Andrews acquired the Duvall farm in 1993 and ultimately grew HerbCo into a national distributor of organic herbs with farms in Michigan, Colorado, Texas and Hawaii, as well as Washington. Prosecutors note HerbCo’s herbs are sold at about 2,700 grocery stores around the country, and the company has annual sales of about $25 million.
Admitting company managers hired back workers knowing they were not entitled to work, attorneys for HerbCo contend the company would not have been able to continue to operate if they hadn’t done so.
HerbCo was among 2,500 companies audited by Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators between October 2010 and September 2011. By comparison, 500 companies were similarly audited by ICE during the 2008 fiscal year.
While ICE leaders contend such inspections deter employers from hiring illegal immigrants, they have been derided as little more than exercises in paperwork slightly more palatable than raids at work sites.
Describing the “silent raids” as “worse than worthless,” Washington Farm Labor Association Director Dan Fazio said the audits stem from a political climate that’s left the country without a functional guest worker program to staff America’s farms.
“The employer merely hires new undocumented workers to replace the old undocumented workers,” Fazio said. “It disrupts the employer, it disrupts the worker and it does absolutely nothing.”
Workers fired after ICE audit returned days later
In early 2011, ICE auditors reviewed employment paperwork filed by HerbCo and found 214 of the farm’s 334 Washington employees were using falsified identification numbers. ICE investigators told HerbCo its employees had three days to provide valid documents or be fired.
The employment eligibility verification forms reviewed by ICE – I-9s – are essentially a pair of statements. The employee presents a photo id and a proof of eligibility to work – usually a driver’s license and Social Security card – and certifies they are authentic, while the employer affirms they’ve reviewed the documents.
During an audit, ICE investigators check the proofs of eligibility against government records. If the records are invalid, investigators notify the employer and suggest the worker either show valid documentation or be fired.
While many of the employees had already left HerbCo, 86 who could not show they were legally able to work in the United States were fired on April 21, 2011. Writing the court, attorneys for Andrews and the other two HerbCo managers described a tearful staff meeting during which several long-time employees were told to leave.
“When Ted Andrews had to terminate a large group of employees … they gave management a standing ovation,” said HerbCo attorneys J. Ronald Sim and Geoffrey Revelle, with the Seattle firm Stoel Rives.
“In addition to its severe financial consequences, this matter has been difficult personally for Ted, having lost employees and really a family that he worked with for many years,” the attorneys continued.
Through her attorney, Debra Howard – another HerbCo employee slated to be sentenced to probation Tuesday – described the firings as “personally devastating.”
“She saw people she knew for five years lose their livelihoods, and forced to get by on public assistance or lower-paid jobs for other employers,” attorney Irwin Schwartz told the court.
Those firings left HerbCo painfully short-staffed. While temporary workers hired through a day labor provider were brought in, the new workers were didn’t know how to process and pack perishable herbs.
Fearing they would be unable to meet production deadlines, Andrews, Howard and HerbCo sales manager Dave Lykins created what they dubbed an “A-Team” comprised of 20 to 25 former employees fired for lack of immigration papers. Members of that team were paid in cash to work a night shift while new, legal workers were brought up to speed.
HerbCo disbanded the “A-Team” two months later, long before they learned of the ICE investigation launched following a tip. That investigation ultimately ended in a plea agreement that will see HerbCo pay the government $1 million over the next five years; Andrews, Lykins and Howard were sentenced to one year on probation by U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez.
"This is a sad case," Martinez said in sentencing the trio, according to a Department of Justice statement. "But the laws of the United States are the laws of the United States.
"Congress passes the laws and we must all obey."
Prosecutor: $1 million fine necessary
Noting that HerbCo managers knew with certainty that the “A-Team” members were working illegally, Reno acknowledged that the move was “a temporary hedge” meant to sustain the business in the wake of the ICE audit.
The prosecutor also noted HerbCo’s hiring practices – aside, apparently, from bringing back undocumented workers after they’d been fired – are not outside the norm.
“Within the worksite universe of either the United States or the state of Washington, the defendants’ conduct appears unremarkable only because of the sheer numbers of other culpable employers who have not been prosecuted for similar conduct,” Reno told the court. “Of 20 million illegal aliens residing in the United States and 230,000 in the state of Washington, 86 were employed at Herbco.”
The $1 million fine, Reno suggested, will dissuade others from knowingly hiring illegal workers while not bankrupting HerbCo.
Writing the court of Andrews’ behalf, HerbCo attorneys J. Ronald Sim and Geoffrey Revelle said the company extended benefits to its employees well beyond those normally associated with the agricultural industry. Workers were provided health insurance and retirement plans, as well as a share of the company’s profits. Many had been with the company for years, in some cases more than a decade.
The fine aside, getting rid of the workers has cost HerbCo more than $2 million, the company’s attorneys told the court. Once profitable, the company was running in the red in the months following the audit.
None of the defendants contend they believed all the employees to be legally entitled to work. Attorneys for the company suggested such a claim would be ridiculous.
“It would be naïve to suggest that prior to the ICE audit … HerbCo management, like virtually all agricultural businesses, had no suspicion that some of its employees were illegally in the United States,” said the attorneys, with the Seattle firm Stoel Rives.
Immigration officials assert audits like the one HerbCo underwent deter employers from hiring illegal immigrants.
“Employment opportunities remain a primary motivation for aliens seeking illegal entry into the United States,” ICE Director John Morton told Congress last year. “By focusing on employers that are willing to hire illegal workers, we can eliminate the incentive that leads illegal aliens to violate our nation’s immigration laws.”
Attorneys for HerbCo disagreed, as did Fazio, whose Farm Bureau-backed organization assists Washington farmers with finding seasonal workers.
The I-9 system leaves employers in an untenable position, the HerbCo attorneys noted. They’re not allowed to demand additional documentation from workers – the Justice Department has won filed civil actions against several employers for doing so – but are then faulted for failing to insure their employees are in the country legally.
Workers who are fired following an ICE audit can still seek new employment using the same paperwork they presented to their previous employer, Fazio said. And employers who have fired the workers identified by ICE as undocumented aren’t in any better a position to know if their new employees have valid papers.
“All these things have done is make employers really careful about filing out I-9s,” Fazio said. “It’s a joke.”
Employers can voluntarily enroll in the E-Verify system promoted by ICE, which basically has ICE audit new employees’ documents shortly after they are hired.
As a practical matter, though, such verifications would cripple agriculture.
In surveys conducted by the Washington Farm Labor Association, about 70 percent of Washington agricultural workers described themselves as not legally entitled to work in the U.S., Fanzio said. Nationwide, he continued, about half of farm workers said the same thing – when interviewed by immigration officials.
What’s needed, Fazio said, is a viable guest worker program that provides an efficient legal framework for farm workers to come to the United States.
- 05-02-2012, 01:54 AM #4
- Join Date
- Jun 2007
- new jersey
Now thats a fine!!
- 05-02-2012, 07:59 AM #5
How's that cheap labor working out for you, HerbCo?"A Nation of sheep will beget a government of Wolves" -Edward R. Murrow
- 05-02-2012, 08:40 AM #6
Highlands Resident, President of Duvall Organic Farm, Pleads Guilty to Immigration Charge
Company secretly hired and paid undocumented workers, federal prosecutors say
By Tony Dondero
A Duvall, Wash. organic herb company, its owner and two executives, including one who lives in Shoreline's gated Highlands neighborhood, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to felony and misdemeanor charges related to the hiring of illegal aliens at the company, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.
A guilty plea was entered by Herbco International, Inc. President Edward "Ted" Williamson Andrews, III, 58, of the Highlands, a former Nordstrom executive, on a misdemeanor charge for aiding and abetting a pattern and practice of employing illegal aliens, and was given one year federal probation.
The company was fined $1 million, and under the terms of the plea agreement, the fine is to be paid over the next five years. The agreement between the government and defendants was accepted by the judge.
The company pleaded guilty to two felony criminal counts: harboring, concealing, and shielding an alien; and encouraging and inducing an alien to reside in the U.S.
Also entering guilty pleas to the same charges and sentenced to a year probation were: vice president David William Lykins, Jr., 55, of Lake Stevens, Washington; and General Manager Debra Rae Howard, 56, of Woodinville, Washington.
The company admits that in April 2011, after being informed that the vast majority of its current employees, a total of 86, were not legally authorized to work in the U.S., the company fired and then secretly rehired as many as 25 of the illegal alien employees, assigned them to a secret night shift and paid them in cash.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez imposed a $1 million criminal fine on the company saying, “This is a sad case. But the laws of the United States are the laws of the United States. Congress passes the laws and we must all obey.”
An Herbco employee tipped off authorities about the scheme and took pictures of the cash envelopes of worth $40,000 used to pay the workers, according to the Associated Press.
“These company executives were looking to help themselves. They knew they were breaking the law with their secret night shift, off the book workers and the envelopes stuffed with cash,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “Employers need to know there is a heavy price to pay - in this case a million dollars - for knowingly breaking the law by hiring ineligible workers.”
One of the company attorneys, Geoff Revelle, said the company couldn't get the work done hired them back.
"They made a mistake they did something they shouldn't have done a year ago and now it's resolved and done," Revelle said.
Under federal law, employers are required to ask a worker for identification that shows they're legally in the United States, according to a SeattlePI.com story. The worker can be hired if the documents look real upon a visual check.
“In the midst of an I-9 administrative audit, HerbCo hired and concealed unauthorized workers,” said Brad Bench, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Seattle acting special agent in charge. “It was a brazen move that compelled us to initiate a criminal investigation. HSI is working to reduce the demand for illegal workers by targeting those who knowingly hire them. Businesses that engage in this unlawful practice should take note of the significant penalties and take proactive steps to comply with the law.”
According to records filed in the case, in February 2011, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Seattle worksite audit group began auditing HERBCO’s compliance with the Immigration Reform and Control Act. The law requires that an employer review documents from each worker to verify they are legally present in the United States and authorized to be employed. The verification forms are called I-9s. The audit of the HERBCO I-9s revealed that more than 200 workers who had been employed by HERBCO had presented false documentation on their status in the U.S. In April 2011, the company was informed of the results of the audit. Company executives were told the employees would have to provide valid documentation, or be dismissed. By April 21, 2011, the company claimed it had dismissed the 86 employees who were illegally employed by HERBCO at the time of the audit.
However, even as company executives were claiming to ICE that the illegal employees had been dismissed, they were making arrangements to secretly rehire the most productive workers for a secret night shift. The “A-Team,” as they called it, worked at night sorting, packaging and delivering shipments of herbs. The workers, who did not have legal status in the U.S., were paid in cash in envelopes left at the office with their names on them. The illegal workers remained at HERBCO until early June 2011. Company executives made about $40,000 in cash withdrawals from company accounts to compensate the illegal workers.
The case was investigated by ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Donald Reno. Mr. Reno is an attorney with ICE, specially designated to prosecute immigration cases in federal court.
source: Highlands Resident, President of Duvall Organic Farm, Pleads Guilty to Immigration Charge - Shoreline-Lake Forest Park, WA PatchU.S. Constitution - Article IV, Section 4: GUARANTEES AMERICA FROM INVASION!
- 05-02-2012, 08:54 AM #7
ADDED SEATTLEPI.COM ARTICLE TO ALIPAC HOMEPAGE News with amended title ..
U.S. Constitution - Article IV, Section 4: GUARANTEES AMERICA FROM INVASION!