Office Manager in Work Site Enforcement Probe Sentenced to Jail and Fined

TUCSON, Ariz. (LAWFUEL) – Carol Hill, 44, of Sierra Vista, Ariz., was sentenced here today by U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins to two months in prison and 12 months of house arrest to be followed by 36 months of supervised release. Hill pleaded guilty in June 2008 to Harboring Illegal Aliens for Profit and Knowingly Hiring at least 10 Illegal Aliens within a 12-Month Period, both federal felonies. The court also assessed Hill with a $10,000 fine and completion of 500 hours of community service (at least10 hours per month). The case, involving Sun Drywall and Stucco, Incorporated in Sierra Vista, Ariz., was the first federal work site enforcement investigation in Arizona.

U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona Diane J. Humetewa stated, “I hope that this sentence sends a message to all Arizona employers that they need to take federal immigration laws seriously and that we intend to aggressively pursue those who chose to violate them. I would like to extend our thanks to all the federal, state and local agencies that worked to make this a successful prosecution.”

“Employers who break the law to aid illegal aliens in gaining unauthorized employment are weakening the rule of law in this country,” said Matt Allen, special agent in charge of ICE’s Office of Investigations in Arizona. “We will continue to seek these employers out and hold them criminally responsible for breaking the law. Hopefully this sentence sends a message to employers who knowingly break the law that ICE is out there looking for them and that there will be serious consequences for these unlawful actions.”

At Sun Drywall and Stucco, Incorporated in Sierra Vista, Ariz, Hill was responsible for creating and maintaining employment records, filing all wages and reporting to the Arizona Department of Economic Security. In December 2005, agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) inspected the employment documents of 115 employees and notified Hill that 11 of the 115 employees were determined to be unauthorized illegal alien workers.

On March 9, 2007, a search warrant was executed at Sun Drywall and Stucco, Incorporated. During the search, agents discovered 58 Forms I-9 clipped together and determined that 50 were confirmed unauthorized illegal alien workers most of whom worked for the company during the 2005 inspection. Records obtained during the search warrant revealed that Sun Drywall had been sent two “no match” letters from the Social Security Administration, one each in 2005 and 2006. (A “no match” letter notifies an employer that the name and Social Security number of an individual does not match the Social Security Administration’s records). The 2005 “no match” letter contained the names of 63 individuals on it while the 2006 “no match” letter had 91 employees on it, 89 of whom were confirmed unauthorized illegal alien workers. There were 55 Social Security numbers in common between the two letters.

In pleading guilty, Hill admitted that the 11 unauthorized illegal alien workers identified during the 2005 inspection continued to work for the company, some for as long as 14 months, after the inspection. Hill also admitted that she engaged in a conspiracy to hire at least 63 illegal aliens and to hide their employment records from ICE agents during the inspection. She further admitted that she wrote fraudulent letters to U.S. immigration officials on behalf of two unauthorized illegal alien employees stating that they would have employment with the company if they obtained legal authorization to work in the United States. The letters falsely implied that the employees were not working for the company, when in fact they were. Finally, Hill admitted that she allowed a number of employees to change their name, and/or Social Security numbers while they were employed at the company. She also let one unauthorized illegal alien worker take over the fraudulent identification of another unauthorized illegal alien worker.

Also charged in the case were co-defendants Jose A. Gutierrez Tapia, Joaquin J. Neave, and Omar Reyes who have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Co-defendant Edward Durgin pleaded guilty and was sentenced. Co-defendants Sun Drywall and Stucco, Inc., Ivan T. Hardt, and Santiago Trejo-Ramirez are pending trial. Co-defendant Efrain Silvain-Avechuco remains a fugitive.

The investigation in this case was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, and the Arizona Fraudulent Identity Task Force (AFIT) with assistance by the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office and the Sierra Vista Police Department. The prosecution for all the co-defendants is being handled by Munish Sharda, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Tucson.


RELEASE NUMBER: 2008-314(Hill)

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