Skip to comments.California company, execs plead guilty to hiring illegal workers (~$5 million penalty)
Posted on 12/14/2006 12:41:21 PM PST by NormsRevenge
A Southern California fence-building company and two executives pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to knowingly hiring illegal immigrants and agreed to pay a combined penalty of $5 million, marking a rare victory for the federal government in prosecuting employers for immigration crimes.
Golden State Fence Co. pleaded guilty to the charge as a misdemeanor and agreed to pay $4.7 million to the federal government. It admitted hiring illegal workers between January 1999 and November 2005.
Mel Kay, 64, the company's founder, chairman and president, and Michael McLaughlin, 42, manager of the company's Oceanside office, pleaded guilty to the charge as a felony. Kay agreed to pay a $200,000 fine and McLaughlin agreed to pay a $100,000 fine.
The men, who admitted hiring at least 10 illegal immigrants, were released on their own recognizance.
U.S. District Court Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz set sentencing for March 28. The charges carry jail time, but it was not known what the judge would impose.
U.S. Attorney Carol Lam told reporters the government will recommend terms on the low end of the six-to-12 months established in federal sentencing guidelines. The maximum is five years.
Richard Hirsch, attorney for Golden State and Kay, said they pleaded guilty to close the matter.
"People slip through the cracks and that's what happens. Mistakes were made," Hirsch said outside court.
"This settlement and guilty plea clearly show that employers who knowingly and blatantly hire illegal workers will pay dearly for such transgressions," Julie Myers, assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement.
Jail time is unusual in such cases and the fines were thought to be among the largest. Last year, Wal-Mart agreed to pay $11 million to end a federal probe into use of illegal immigrants at stores in 21 states.
It is extremely rare for a company to be criminally charged with hiring illegal immigrants, said Steven Camarota, research director of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., a group that advocates tighter immigration controls.
"You have to show a kind of criminal conspiracy," Camarota said in an interview. "The mere hiring of illegals is not enough."
The plea deal comes the same week as a sweeping workplace crackdown on illegal immigrants. On Tuesday, federal agents raided meat processing plants in six states for what they described as an investigation into the stealing and selling of identity documents so illegal immigrants can get jobs.
The government first audited Golden State Fence Co.'s employee records in 1999 and launched a criminal investigation after a second audit in 2004.
The following year, government agents raided the company's Riverside headquarters and concluded that 110 employees there were unauthorized to work - including three who the company had been ordered not to employ after the 1999 audit.
Golden State, which has at least seven offices in Southern California, declined to comment on the investigation Wednesday. The company said last month that it enrolled in a voluntary federal program to verify workers' immigration status in December 2005 and encouraged other fencing companies to do the same to create "a level playing field in the industry."
Golden State, which currently employs 750 people, saw sales soar from $60 million in 1998 to $150 million in 2004, according to a biography of Kay provided by the company. Among its projects: construction of part of a 14-mile border fence in San Diego in the late 1990s.
Golden State built 6,100 feet of the 15-foot-high fence near the Otay Mesa border crossing in San Diego, completing the work in February 1998, said Jay Field, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which awarded the contract. Federal authorities and the company have said they found no evidence that illegal immigrants worked on the border fence.
Kay founded Golden State with "five employees, two trucks and a forklift" in the 1980s after his Idaho sawmill business failed, according to a biography issued by the company. McLaughlin worked at the sawmill, followed Kay to California and married Kay's oldest daughter.
The biography said Kay pays "rank-and-file laborers" about $15 an hour.
Fence building company.....
All "fines" obtained this way should be put into a special fund to build the fence. In this particular case, this company should build the fence!
$5M is a slap on the hands to these guys. They should be in jail and their ill-gotten property seized to repay all of those who lost jobs or were given lower pay due to competition with illegals and taxpayers who paid their illegal employees' medical bills, education expenses, insurance expenses, incarceration expenses, etc!
Among its projects: construction of part of a 14-mile border fence in San Diego in the late 1990s.
Golden State built 6,100 feet of the 15-foot-high fence near the Otay Mesa border crossing in San Diego... Federal authorities and the company have said they found no evidence that illegal immigrants worked on the border fence.
chainlink fence gang...
ap article is also out there under title..
Fence co. cops to immigration charges
This is a huge fine.
Let's see if they follow up and go after other companies hiring illegals.
guarenteed...if the these company executives spend time in jail in addition to paying fines (the cost of doing business).....the hiring of illegals would end in a heartbeat!!!!!
Har! I second your SNORK!!
Their punishment SHOULD have been to build that 2000 mile border fence for free. They could hire all the illegals they wanted, but said workers would have to remain on the south side of the wall.
It's a drop in the bucket to these cheats, who have made their fortunes on the backs of illegals and taxpayers.
Company, execs fined $5 million in hiring
CALIFORNIA -- Golden State Fence Co. in Southern California and two executives pleaded guilty Thursday to knowingly hiring illegal immigrants and agreed to pay a combined penalty of $5 million. The executives could also go to prison. The fine is one of the biggest ever imposed in an immigration case, and the case represents a rare instance in which prosecutors brought criminal charges over the hiring of illegal immigrants. Among Golden State Fence's projects in recent years was construction of part of a 14-mile border fence in San Diego in the late 1990s.
-- The Associated Press
For five workers it is a huge fine.
If there were 5 confirmed, there were another 300-500 unconfirmed. This is a >$100M company.
Nevertheless this article references only 5 confirmed violations. Other "maybes", "should be", "could be" don't count.
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