DALLAS – A North Texas construction company will pay the U.S. government $3 million for its role in a scheme to illegally employ illegal aliens.
This agreement was reached following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Five individuals have already pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme.
In a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Speed Fab Crete, a Texas-based builder, admitted it illegally employed individuals 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.
According to the agreement, which requires Speed Fab Crete to cooperate with the government to ensure it will not violate immigration laws in the 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 the company’s chief financial officer, Robert Edwin James, pleaded guilty to unlawful employment of illegal aliens, a misdemeanor offense.
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 had been 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 individuals not authorized to work in the United States, Speed Fab Crete entered into a settlement with HSI, pledging to rectify the situation.
HSI agreed not to conduct any subsequent I-9 inspection for 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. Initially, Hall asked Sevier to transfer the illegal aliens 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, Sept. 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 returned 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 Hall authorized.
On Oct. 11, 2016, Speed Fab Crete followed up with HSI, sending a letter that read all 39 of the unauthorized workers had been 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 will also be required to pay a $69,000 fine, equal to $3,000 per alien, which is the statutory maximum.
Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Cathy Richardson and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Bunch are prosecuting the case.