COVINGTON, Ky. - The president of a Cincinnati-area drywall company was sentenced Monday to eight months in prison for harboring illegal aliens for commercial advantage and private financial gain. The company, Spectrum Interiors, was also sentenced to two years probation and must pay $2 million in fines. This sentence resulted from a criminal worksite enforcement investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
In November 2007, Spectrum Interiors and its president, 49-year-old Jeffrey Wolnitzek of Ft. Wright, Ky., admitted that they knowingly conspired to utilize labor contracting companies owned by Luis Garcia and others that provided illegal aliens to perform drywall and exterior applications on many of Spectrum's job site duties. Spectrum Interiors is one of the largest drywall businesses in the greater Cincinnati area with offices in Erlanger and Lexington in Kentucky.
"The sentences imposed by the Court today reflect the serious nature of this crime, and should serve as a wake-up call to any Kentucky employer utilizing illegal aliens in their work force," said Robert McBride, assistant U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Kentucky. "As this case shows, violating the law banning the employment of illegal aliens may lead to punishment of not just the company, but also its officers."
Garcia pleaded guilty in Ohio federal court in November 2005 to tax evasion and agreed to cooperate with ICE's investigation into Spectrum Interiors before being deported to Mexico. Garcia met with Wolnitzek and Spectrum's chief financial officer in a recorded meeting in May 2006, where he advised them that half of the workers he provided to Spectrum were illegal aliens. Despite that information, Wolnitzek and the financial officer agreed to continue to utilize Garcia's laborers on job site projects. Wolnitzek also tried to convince Garcia to allow one of his relatives to assume his operations after his deportation so that Spectrum could still use the illegal aliens on its projects.
ICE conducted a worksite enforcement action in November 2006 at various Spectrum job sites in Kenton and Boone counties and arrested 31 illegal alien workers on criminal charges of being in the U.S illegally.
James A. Zerhusen, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, and Paul Chambers, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement jointly announced the sentences.
"ICE aggressively targets egregious employers like Mr. Wolnitzek who knowingly and recklessly employ an illegal alien workforce," said Paul Chambers, resident agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Ft. Mitchell. "We will continue to use all our investigative tools to pursue employers who take advantage of illegal labor to make unlawful profits."
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.
So 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 year's 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.