Thursday, July 17, 2008

McDonald's Franchisee Agrees to Whopper of a Fine...

I know, I know, I apologize for the headline but it was impossible NOT to do it.

The most telling part about this news is its source: released on PR Newswire by the USG, which used the opportunity to boast of the $31 million in criminal
fines, restitutions and civil judgments as a result of worksite
related enforcement actions collected in FY 2007.

Ouch.  I've edited out a little fluff but left in most of it so you can see just how serious the USG is working to instill fear in the hearts of employers who are NOT maintaining workplace compliance rules.  Save yourself a million bucks and contact Terry at i9 Advantage and let us get your compliance in order

McDonalds Franchisee Admits to Two Felony Counts - Agrees to Pay
$1 Million Fine

Two executives from a company which owns 11 McDonalds restaurants in the Reno, Nevada area pleaded
pleaded guilty in federal court in Las Vegas today to federal felony
immigration offenses for "encouraging illegal aliens to reside in the
United States".


U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Gregory A. Brower and
Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE Julie L.
Myers announced the plea agreements, which are the latest
developments in an ICE probe that began in March 2007 after the
agency received a tip about a possible incidence of identity theft
from the sheriffs office in Lyon County, Nev.


Attorneys for Mack Associates Inc., which owns
the Reno-area McDonalds restaurants, pleaded guilty on behalf of the
franchisee to one count of conspiracy to encourage and induce an
aliens unlawful residence in the United States and one count of
aiding and abetting an alien to remain in the United States, both
felony offenses. Joe Gillespie, 53, of Sparks, Nev., the Director of
Operations for Mack Associates Inc., also pleaded guilty to one
count of aiding and abetting an alien to remain in the United
States. Both defendants waived indictment by a federal grand jury
and agreed to plead guilty to criminal informations.


The government and Mack Associates agreed that the corporation
will pay a $1 million fine -- $500,000 for each count, the maximum
allowed -- and be placed on probation during the period that the
fine is outstanding. The court accepted this agreement and sentenced
Mack Associates today to one year of probation and ordered the
corporation to pay the agreed upon fine, with $300,000 payable
immediately and the balance to be paid within nine months.


The plea agreement details how Mack Associates management
employed individuals they knew were in the country illegally,
including two restaurant managers, by furnishing them with names and
Social Security numbers belonging to other individuals.


In addition, Jimmy Moore, 47, the franchisees former vice-
president, pleaded guilty to one felony count of inducing an illegal
alien to remain in the United States. At sentencing, Moore faces a
maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.


A third defendant in the case, Anntoinette Richmond, 44, the
corporations controller, has been charged with one misdemeanor count
of continuing employment of an unauthorized alien.


This case should serve as a reminder to employers that knowingly
hiring illegal aliens violates federal law, said U.S. Attorney
Brower. Companies and their managers who engage in such conduct are
on notice that violations will be prosecuted and that the criminal
penalties can be significant.


This investigation clearly shows our resolve to pursue those who
willfully violate our nations hiring laws, regardless of their place
on the corporate ladder, said Assistant Secretary Myers. On
television, criminal cases are wrapped up in an hour; but in real
life, these investigations are complex and can take months, or even
years, to build. We will invest whatever time it takes to ensure
that those who flout the law are brought to justice.


In September 2007, ICE agents executed federal search warrants at
the 11 McDonalds restaurants owned by Mack Associates in the Reno
area and at the franchisees corporate office. During the operation,
agents encountered 58 illegal aliens who were working illegally at
the McDonalds restaurants. The illegal alien workers were arrested
on administrative immigration violations and processed for removal.
Approximately 30 of those workers have been returned to their native
countries. The remaining illegal workers were provided with
documentation allowing them to remain in the United States pending
the outcome of the criminal investigation.


Since its establishment in 2003, ICE has dramatically enhanced
its efforts to combat the unlawful employment of illegal aliens in
this country. ICE's comprehensive strategy for worksite enforcement
is aimed at promoting national security and public safety,
protecting critical infrastructure, and ensuring fair labor
standards.


Thus far in fiscal year 2008 (October 2007 through July 11,
2008), ICE has made 937 criminal arrests in connection with worksite
enforcement investigations. Of those, 99 involve owners, managers,
supervisors or human resources employees who face charges ranging
from harboring to knowingly hiring illegal aliens. In addition to
the criminal arrests, ICE has made more than 3,500 administrative
arrests for immigration violations during worksite investigations in
that same time frame. Last year, ICE made more than 4,900 arrests in
worksite enforcement cases, including 863 involving criminal
violations. Last years figure represents a 45-fold increase in
criminal worksite arrests compared to fiscal year 2001. Furthermore,
in fiscal year 2007, ICE obtained more than $31 million in criminal
fines, restitutions and civil judgments as a result of worksite
related enforcement actions."



Monday, July 7, 2008

Sheer Pandelerium

The title, a Jeff Foxworthy quote, aptly describes the current state of workplace regulation nationwide.  In the past week, I had conversations with immigration attorney friends in different states and each made essentially the same comment: with all the changes occurring in their OWN state and hardly keeping up, how on earth am I keeping the i9 Advantage regulatory map current??  My response: I'm NOT! )-:

Much to my embarrassment, our map is less than perfect simply because the amount of time required to monitor I-9 and employment verification legislation being churned out en masse by state legislatures is simply more than I can dedicate to the mission.  Now, that being said, I can tell you this:  I am not aware of anyone out there with a more current and up to date legislative map.  But is it "real time"?  No way, Jose.

That'll change soon.  We are looking at a variety of strategies to cope with the workload and are aware that being the best around isn't enough...our clients, both big and small, need 100% accuracy they can rely on, and so we press on.

In the meantime, amidst this confessional, remember this much: if you want to know what is happening with employment verification legislation nationwide, your best -yet still imperfect -- resource can be found at www.i9advantage.com.



Tuesday, July 1, 2008

If Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery...

...well, then www.i9advantage.com has every right to be blushing: our competition is starting to look, well, a LOT more like us!  As we scour the Web daily to keep our clients and readers up to date with the latest developments in workforce compliance, part of our searches includes our competitors.  Funny how the release of that priceless, excruciatingly-difficult-to-design-and-execute State Legislative Map has triggered a whole bunch of lookalike maps on other sites (albeit linked to the same erroneous information as before in most cases.)   The fact is that a substantial amount of information we gather comes from attorneys, agency officials, and others those of us at i9A have befriended in our two-plus decades of trying to keep employers safe and sound.  As an attorney with a considerable investment in time in the development of our protected intellectual property, you know what I think about all this "borrowing" from our information?

I think it's GREAT. 

Honestly.  I believe that the situation in I-9 compliance is SOOOOO disastrous and the stakes so high that each time ANYONE sounds the trumpets of new information  -- even if that information is something they cut and pasted out of our own website -- it is good for U.S. employers.  It's not just that there is more than enough business to go around for those of us involved in compliance; it's that the mainstream media and business publications seem more intent on pumping out the tabloid-like tales of raids (okay, well, alright...just like the one I wrote about a minute ago right here...(-:) than on matters of substantive compliance of use to employers.  In other words, the more people there are talking about this, the more employers will wake up and realize that a comprehensive I-9 management solution is no longer a luxury but an indispensable necessity.

Remember this: i9 Advantage is the ONLY I-9 compliance solution designed by in-house, full time programmer/partners AND legally monitored by a grizzled old compliance attorney who does this full time as well (yours truly).  If you want compliance straight from the horse's mouse, write me.  And for those of you "borrowing" so enthusiastically from us, an invitation:

Try i9advantage as your technology and not only will your service quality and sales...

...but you'll sleep better at night knowing you did the right thing. (-:



ICE Raids: Close to Home

[NOTE: first of all, a quick apology to those of you who expressed concern over the absence of blogs for the past couple of weeks; I am quite fine and in fact, better than when I last wrote you.  I took two weeks off to take the U.S. Coast Guard 100 Ton Captain's License course I've been wanting to take since I was a wee lad...and I passed!  I should have told you what I was up to so the greatly exaggerated rumors of my death could have been prevented...but thanks for the love!- JEL]

The Associated Press reported Friday that 69 people were picked up in what I believe to be among the first-ever raids targeting a temporary employment agency.  More on the raids in a minute, but I will begin by telling you that I see this as a continued step toward increased enforcement in places previously "respected" by the USG as easy targets.  Consider your local Home Depot, where no doubt dozens of unauthorized workers gather every morning, along with U.S. workers looking for day labor.  In this season of economic chaos, one would think the administration would take the circumstances for which it is ultimately responsible under consideration, but not this administration.

Unfortunately for Jones Industrial Network, the Baltimore based employment agency, finding undocumented workers trying to make a living proved to tempting for D.C. ICE.  And it wasn't just the workers who were seized: the agency's account containing $600,000 was also grabbed by the feds.  Even more interesting:

ICE not only searched the agency, but three other businesses for whom the agency provided staffing.

Employment verification is no longer a luxury, folks, and as this latest enforcement effort shows, as far as ICE is concerned, the buck simply does NOT stop anywhere.