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Worksite Enforcement
05/07/2009

Howard Industries human resources manager charged with conspiracy and employee verification fraud

Hattiesburg, Miss - Michael A. Holt, special agent-in-charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Investigations in New Orleans and Stan Harris, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, have announced the indictment of Jose Humberto González, Human Resources Manager for Howard Industries, Inc., in Laurel, Mississippi.

González was charged in a 25-count indictment with conspiracy and employee verification fraud in connection with the employment of illegal aliens at the company's transformer manufacturing facility in Laurel. González made his initial appearance on May 7, 2009, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael T. Parker at the federal courthouse in Hattiesburg.

González's indictment followed an immigration law enforcement action of the Laurel plant last August, during which 595 illegal aliens were subject to administrative arrest during the agency's largest-ever worksite enforcement action. Of those arrested, nine were charged criminally with aggravated identity theft and ultimately pled guilty to federal identity fraud charges.

"ICE aggressively targets employers who egregiously violate immigration laws by knowingly employing an illegal alien workforce," said Michael A. Holt, Special Agent-in-Charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in New Orleans. "This indictment demonstrates firsthand how ICE agents use our investigative tools to pursue those who take advantage of illegal labor for personal profit."

In the indictment, González was charged with conspiring to commit multiple offenses against the United States, including encouraging illegal aliens to reside in the United States, attempting to conceal and harbor illegal aliens, and falsely attesting to the validity of employment-related documents. The indictment alleges that it was a part of the conspiracy that González, on behalf of Howard Industries, would routinely hire illegal aliens and in the process of such hiring, would accept false identity documents, including alien registration receipt cards and Social Security cards.

The indictment further stated that, as part of the conspiracy, defendant González would submit Social Security numbers provided to him by applicants at the Laurel plant to the Social Security Administration to verify their numbers and, after being notified by the Social Security Administration that the Social Security numbers of such applicants were not found to be valid, González would nonetheless hire and continue to employ such persons. As charged, it was also a part of the conspiracy that González would instruct employees to obtain alternative identity documents which he knew falsely represented their true identities. The indictment further charges that it was also a part of the conspiracy that González would assure Spanish-speaking foreign nationals working at the Laurel plant that they would be warned if immigration authorities were coming to the plant.

In addition to the conspiracy charge, González was charged with 24 counts of falsely certifying to the employment eligibility of job applicants and employees. The indictment charges that, on various dates, González falsely certified, under penalty of perjury, on Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verifications that he had examined the documents listed on the Form I-9 and determined them to be genuine and that, to the best of his knowledge, the applicant was eligible to work in the United States, whereas in fact he had been notified by the Social Security Administration that the Social Security numbers of such applicants were not found to be valid.

Defendant González faces a maximum of five years of imprisonment on each count. In addition to possible imprisonment, the defendant faces a maximum fine of $250,000, and three years of supervised release for each count.