Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Imprisonment of Employer VP Leaves Fishing Industry Reeling*

(*I humbly apologize to my readers for this appalling headline but it proved irresistible and I may never have an opportunity for it again.)








[Readers, take note:  I’ve been telling you for about five years that the threat of jail time against I-9 violating company officials would become a primary weapon of enforcement any day.  That has been increasingly the case, but the enforcement we’ve seen has been driven by Homeland Security and other Federal agencies.  Now, armed with discretion and reflective of the public demand for prosecution of violating employers, Federal Courts are getting into the game, and it’s getting very ugly very fast.]








The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reported May 1st that a federal judge socked it to Newport-News based fishing enterprise Peabody Corp despite calls for leniency from both the defense attorneys and prosecution.  The sentence for company Vice President (and daughter of founder) Michelle Peabody: 90 days in prison for employing undocumented workers over a four-year period.










According to the article, Peabody Corp. operates trawlers and fishes mostly for scallops.  Ms. Peabody pleaded guilty to employing illegal immigrants.








Her father, William “Frankie” Peabody was sentenced Wednesday to five months of home confinement with electronic monitoring. U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson also ordered Michelle Peabody to serve four months of home detention after she gets out of custody!








The severe sanctions were on TOP of the $6.9 million in fines and forfeitures the Peabody’s had already agreed to pay; the amount represents represents the profits they made using the undocumented workers.  (One can only wonder at the judge’s design of the algorithm distinguishing between fish caught by legal workers versus those caught by unauthorized workers.)










Calling the Peabodys’ conduct ”egregious" ,Jackson told Michelle Peabody that the government could have easily charged her with felony crimes.  As company Vice President, Michelle Peabody handles day-to-day operations and was held largely responsible for employing 126 illegal immigrants over a four-year period, through 2006. Her attorney, Kenneth D. Bell, in arguing for leniency, said he'd never seen in 25 years of practice someone with no criminal record getting jail time for a first misdemeanor offense.








Both sides also agreed that the workers were treated and paid fairly: the workers earned more than $10,000 per fishing trip, the prevailing wage for scallopers.








Good GRIEF!  2 questions: how long are the trips and do you need legal workers, Ms. Peabody??


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