DENVER — A Denver-based paving corporation was sentenced Tuesday to pay nearly $185,000 in forfeiture of criminal proceeds for its criminal practice of hiring illegal aliens. The forfeited money will go to the Department of Transportation federal highway fund.
This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of the Inspector General (DOT OIG).
Premier Paving Inc. (PPI) was charged by misdemeanor Information Aug. 21. An executive, Russ Otterstein, on behalf of the corporation, signed an agreement Oct. 9 where the company pleaded guilty to unlawfully hiring illegal aliens. The corporation was sentenced by U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Watanabe Jan. 28.
According to the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, the defendant is a Colorado corporation. From January 2007 through September 2012, the company knowingly hired and continued to employ illegal aliens who were not authorized to work in the United States. During this period, PPI hired aliens who lacked the documents required by law to complete an employment eligibility verification form (I-9). In 2007, ICE audited PPI's employment records, finding violations of hiring employees not authorized to work in the U.S. That investigation resulted in the company entering a settlement agreement with ICE June 8, 2008 where the company agreed to pay $11,000. The agreement also stated that Premier Paving "can hire only U.S. citizens and aliens authorized to work in the United States."
After entering into that settlement agreement with ICE, PPI began working with a Denver entity known as Servicios de Migracion Para Todos. As a result of that relationship, Premier Paving again began employing illegal aliens who were not authorized to work in the U.S. Another review by ICE in September 2012 determined that the company employed unauthorized workers, and failed to adequately complete I-9 forms for a number of employees hired between Jan. 1, 2011 and Sept. 20, 2012. Some of these unauthorized employees performed work on federal transportation contracts. After ICE conducted a criminal investigation, misdemeanor charges were filed in U.S. District Court in Denver. Premier Paving has established new procedures to ensure compliance with federal immigration-related employment laws as a result of this prosecution.
"This is the second time Premier Paving has had to pay for knowingly employing illegal aliens since 2008," said Kumar C. Kibble, special agent in charge of HSI Denver. "Homeland Security Investigations helps ensure that these unscrupulous employers don't gain an unfair advantage over their competition by knowingly hiring illegal workers who are paid less."
"This sentencing sends a clear message of the severe penalties in store for those who act in a criminally irresponsible manner," said Max Smith, DOT OIG regional Special Agent in Charge. "Both DOT and the OIG are committed to ensuring fair competition for parties seeking to do business with the Department. We will continue to vigorously investigate and work with our law enforcement and prosecutorial colleagues to see that those who violate criminal laws are punished to the fullest extent of the law."
PPI was prosecuted by ICE Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Beth Gibson; Assistant U.S. Attorney Tonya Andrews handled the forfeiture.