Monday, October 31, 2011

Hotel Owner Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for Immigration Violations

An El Paso, Texas hotel owner was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison last week for conspiracy to smuggle, transport and/or harbor illegal aliens, money laundering and tax fraud.  This was a result of U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) investigation of Song U. Chon, 55, owner of the Gateway Hotel.

Chon was sentenced to 180 months in federal prison $481,812.32 in restitution to the government, a money judgment of $2,305,497 and an additional judgment of $873,910 against the YCL, Inc, of which Chon was president.  24 other defendants were convicted and sentenced as well.

ICE reported that they conspired and devised a plan to smuggle hundreds of illegal aliens into the U.S. from Mexico, Central America, South America, Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia.  Chon harbored them in the hotel, provided shelter and clothing, collected a "sponsor" fee of about $2,000 per alien and then shipped them to their final destination.

While this is an egregious case of harboring aliens, it is futher proof of ICE's commitment to investigating U.S. employers for compliance with immigration laws.

Contact us if you would like assistance in determining your risk level regarding immigration compliance and how to ensure that you are protected in case of an ICE I-9 audit.

You can reach us at 949-640-4949, or

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

San Diego Bakery Owner and Manager Plead Guilty to Hiring Illegal Workers

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the owner and manager of a San Diego bakery have pleaded guilty to hiring illegal workers.  This comes after a four-year investigation by ICE.  Both the owner and the manager face stiff fines and jail time because of a long time practice of hiring illegal aliens.

At a hearing in federal court, The French Gourmet, Inc., along with Michel Malecot, 59, the business owner and president, and Richard Kauffmann, 58, the bakery's manager, pleaded guilty to the felony offense of hiring at least 10 illegal aliens from 2006 to 2007. The defendants also admitted employing illegal alien workers as early as 2003, despite being fined in the 1990s by the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for employing illegal aliens.

"These guilty pleas show our commitment to holding employers accountable," said Derek Benner, special agent in charge for ICE HSI in San Diego. "HSI will continue to investigate employers who build their business model on exploiting illegal alien labor. Our goal is to reduce the demand for illegal employment and protect employment opportunities for the nation's lawful workforce."

In pleading guilty, the company and Kauffman admitted they repeatedly rehired illegal alien workers, even after the company received "no-match" letters from the Social Security Administration advising employees' names did not match the Social Security numbers reported by the company on its tax returns.

Malecot also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge related to continuing to employ illegal aliens. Malecot admitted that 91 illegal aliens were employed unlawfully at the French Gourmet between 2005 and 2008, and that he knew at least seven of those individuals were not authorized to work in the United States.

In conjunction with the guilty pleas, The French Gourmet and Malecot agreed to forfeit the illicit proceeds gained from the bakery's illegal hiring practices. Although the total financial penalty is expected to be between $350,000 and $650,000, the exact amount of the forfeiture and fine will be determined by U.S. District Judge Thomas J. Whelan at a sentencing hearing December 19.

Kauffmann faces a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release. Malecot faces a maximum of six months in custody and a fine of $3,000 per illegal alien worker.

Criminal prosecutions are just one of many tools ICE HSI uses to reduce the demand for illegal employment and protect job opportunities for the nation's lawful workforce. That enforcement strategy also includes the expanded use of civil penalties, employer audits and debarment. In the first 11 months of fiscal year 2011, ICE HSI initiated audits involving 2,393 employers nationwide – surpassing the record number conducted in all of fiscal year 2010. That figure includes 83 businesses in the San Diego area. During that same time frame, ICE issued 308 final fine notices totaling more than $8 million to employers across the country, again surpassing the record fine total in fiscal year 2010.

If you would like more information on how you can avoid fines and penalties resulting from an ICE I-9 audit, contact us a 949-640-4949, or

The fastest way for you to find out if you have a potential problem is to have us conduct an I-9 Diagnostic to identify employee I-9 records that appear to be flawed, missing or otherwise improper.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

California Goes Against the E-Verify Tide

While the Federal Government and many State Governments are passing laws that require E-Verify use by employers, California is, as usual, a little different.

Governor Jerry Brown signed "The Employment Acceleration Act of 2011" into law this week, which prohibits state and local governments in California from passing local mandates that require employers use the E-Verify program to electronically verify the employment eligibility of newly hired employees.

The act prohibits the use of E-Verify:
  1. As a condition of receiving a state or local government contract;
  2. As a condition of applying for or maintaining a business license; or
  3. As a penalty for violation of other laws.
However, the act does NOT override employer requirements to verify the employment eligibility of employees through EVerify, if their participation is required by federal law or as a condition of receiving federal funds or contracts.

California employers are still required to comply with the federal Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) process, ensuring that they complete and maintain a Form I-9 for all employees.

If you would like more information on electronic Form I-9s, I-9 Auditing, or E-Verify services, contact us at 949-640-4949,, or

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Monday, October 3, 2011

E-Verify in the News: The Legal Workforce Act

The Legal Workforce Act was introduced by Texas Congressman, Lamar Smith, in June 2011.  Since that time, it has been gaining support and spurring a controversy. 

As Chairman Smith states in his E-Verify fact sheet for the act:  "There is no other legislation that can be enacted that will create more jobs for American workers."

Chairman Smith's fact sheet also states:

Twenty-four million Americans want a full time job, but can’t find one.  Of these, 19 million
are Americans without a college degree who compete most directly with unskilled illegal
immigrant workers.  And according to the Pew Hispanic Center, seven million people are
working in this country illegally.  These U.S. jobs should go to legal workers. 

E-Verify, currently a voluntary program, quickly identifies those working illegally. 
Making it mandatory for all employers will open up more jobs for Americans and legal
immigrants.  It is an electronic employment eligibility verification system available free online. 
Social Security numbers and immigrant identification numbers of new hires are checked
against SSA and DHS databases to help determine work eligibility.

 Nearly 290,000 businesses currently use E-Verify and 1,300 new businesses sign up each

Persons eligible to work receive immediate confirmation 99.5% of the time. 

The American public has consistently supported E-Verify.  A May 2011, Rasmussen poll
found that 82% of likely voters “think businesses should be required to use the federal
government’s E-Verify system to determine if a potential employee is in the country
legally.”  And the breakdown of the Rasmussen poll shows that individuals from all races and
political affiliations support the use of E-Verify.  In fact 78% percent of African-Americans
agreed, 72% of other minorities agreed, 73% of Democrats agreed and 85% of
“moderates” agreed.

And it looks like E-Verify is being fast tracked to be launched across the nation.

According to, "It just got to Washington state, but its already on a fast track for the whole nation – and all business owners."

According to an article by the Orange County Register, "Supporters say the measure would push illegal immigrants from the workforce and reclaim those jobs for Americans or legal residents while leveling the playing field.  Opponents say the program would saddle small business owners with additional burdens".

Some note that in the aftermath of the Chipotle audits that resulted in 1/3 of their Minnesota workforce being terminated, hundreds of Americans lined up to take the jobs once held by illegal workers.

We fully expect that E-Verify will become mandatory for all U.S. employers in the not too distant future.

If you would like more information on E-Verify, I-9s, or immigration compliance, please contact Form I-9 Compliance at 949-640-4949,, or

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