Grand Jury Returns 23-Count Indictment for Conspiring to Harbor Undocumented Workers

A federal grand jury recently returned a 23-count indictment charging the owners and managers of an Ohio restaurant chain with conspiracy to harbor undocumented workers, aiding and abetting the harboring of undocumented workers, and harboring undocumented workers, among other charges.  In addition to prison sentences, the indictment seeks $16.47 million in gross proceeds that the defendants allegedly earned as a result of the claimed offenses.  The indictment is the result of a joint investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.

In the indictment, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio charged that the owners and managers of the restaurant chain “took advantage of their workers’ immigration status for their own profit.”  The indictment alleges that the defendants not only hired undocumented workers, but conspired to shield them from detection by, among other acts, helping the employees obtain fraudulent work documents, leasing housing for them, and paying them in cash in lieu of placing them on payroll.  The indictment further charges that the defendants paid the workers less than the minimum wage, failed to pay overtime, and sometimes only paid them in tips. 

This indictment is aligned to ICE’s revised Worksite Enforcement Strategy which prioritizes the use of criminal prosecutions against employers that:

  • Utilize unauthorized workers as a business model
  • Mistreat their workers
  • Engage in human smuggling or trafficking
  • Engage in identity and benefit fraud
  • Launder money
  • Participate in other criminal conduct

Although the indictment illustrates an extreme example for employers, it sheds light on the seriousness with which federal authorities take incidents of purposeful employment of undocumented workers, particularly where the employers are alleged to have done so as part of a “business model.”

Read ICE’s Press Release here

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.