MIAMI - Three Miami residents have been charged with conspiring to induce undocumented aliens to enter and remain in the United States by providing them with employment at a Miami-Dade school construction project in a case investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Miami and Miami-Dade County Schools Office of Inspector General (MD OIG).
On June 9, ICE special agents arrested Luis Daniel, 59, his wife, Marta Duque, 57, and their son, Ariel Daniel, 26, on a criminal complaint. According to the allegations in the complaint, Luis Daniel is the president of Daniel Builders, Inc. located in Hialeah, Fla. Ariel Daniel is the treasurer/director and Marta Duque is the secretary/director. The three defendants were charged with conspiracy to induce aliens to remain in the United States for commercial advantage and private financial gain. If convicted, they each face a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison. They had their initial appearances in federal court earlier today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrea M. Simonton.
"We are focused on finding and penalizing employers who believe they can unfairly get ahead by cultivating illegal workplaces and by exploiting illegal aliens," said ICE Special Agent in Charge in Miami Anthony V. Mangione. "Today's enforcement action should serve as notice to those individuals and businesses that traffic and exploit undocumented immigrants. We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to root out this criminal activity. The message is clear: All employers must play by the rules."
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, "Employers must follow our nation's labor and immigration laws. The U.S. Attorney's Office, along with ICE and MD-OIG, will enforce these laws with the goal of protecting our labor force from abuse by unscrupulous employers."
Miami-Dade County School District Inspector General Chris Mazzella said, "My office will continue to monitor School District construction projects to help detect unscrupulous contractors who parley public money into illegal activities."
In February 2009, ICE special agents initiated an investigation after the MD OIG discovered that undocumented aliens, as well as lawful residents and citizens of the United States, were paid substandard wages at a construction project of an addition to Southside Elementary School, located at 45 S.W. 13th Street in Miami. According to the allegations in the complaint, in September 2008, Daniel Builders was the sub-contractor awarded a $2.714 million contract at Southside Elementary School.
According to the allegations, the construction workers hired for the project did not receive overtime wages or social security and income taxes deducted from their paychecks.
According to the complaint affidavit, between October 2008 and March 13, 2009, the three defendants used their corporation to hire and underpay illegal aliens to increase their profit margin. Thereafter, the defendants created an elaborate scheme to conceal the fact that its workforce was comprised primarily of undocumented aliens. This scheme included creating nominee corporations that acted as labor providers and payroll administrators, in order to insulate Daniel Builders from the responsibility and tax consequences of hiring illegal workers. Among the nominee companies were Miami Metro Services, Inc. and Miami Dade Builders, Inc.
The complaint affidavit further alleges that the defendants' operation of Daniel Builders induced the illegal workforce to remain in the United States in violation of law. This allowed the company to enhance its profit margin primarily by paying substandard wages, not paying overtime wages, not withholding employment taxes, and not making the requisite social security deduction or payments. In addition, the complaint alleges that Daniel Builders filed tax information suggesting it only had five employees. In fact, however, the company had at least 60 employees at any given time.
In March 2009, ICE special agents administratively arrested the 20 individuals who had been observed working at the Southside Elementary construction site. Among those arrested were 14 Mexican nationals, one El Salvadoran national, and five Guatemalan nationals. All 20 undocumented workers provided sworn statements to ICE special agents and MD OIG stating that they did not have to fill out any paperwork, including employment applications or I-9 forms, in order to be employed at the Southside Elementary construction site. Some of the individuals stated that they were being paid under fictitious names. To date, all but one have been removed from the United States.
One worker was arrested on criminal charges for illegally re-entering the United States after deportation as an aggravated felon and has been sentenced to 46 months in prison.
The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Lorraine Tashman and Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Daniel.