SANTA ANA, Calif. - A Filipino man and his former wife, who own an employment agency that provides personnel to elder care facilities throughout Orange County, were indicted by a federal grand jury here today following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) into allegations they knowingly hired illegal aliens, primarily from the Philippines, to fill the jobs.
Wilfredo Ngo, 51, and his ex-wife, Teresa Ngo, 49, were named in a four-count indictment handed down this morning charging them with inducing aliens to reside in the United States; knowingly employing illegal aliens; knowingly harboring illegal aliens; and counseling persons to engage in marriage fraud. The Ngos are scheduled to be arraigned by U.S. Magistrate Judge Marc L. Goldman August 25. If convicted of all the charges, the Ngos each face a maximum sentence of more than 15 years in prison.
The Ngos own A-Plus Senior Planning Services, Inc., an employment agency based in Lake Forest, Calif. The firm provides caregivers to at least 10 major elder care facilities in Orange County as well as workers for individual in-home care.
Also indicted today was Gicela Sarabia, 43, the office manager for A-Plus Senior Planning Services. Sarabia is charged with inducing aliens to reside in the United States and knowingly hiring illegal aliens. Like the Ngos, Sarabia will be arraigned before Magistrate Goldman August 25.
The charges against the three stem from an undercover probe that began in December 2007 after ICE received a lead involving an alien with an expired visa who turned out to be employed by A-Plus Planning Services. The ensuing investigation revealed that at least 40 of the agency's workers were in the United States illegally. Most of them arrived as visitors and overstayed their visas.
"The allegations in this case are disturbing when you consider that the illegal alien workers hired by these defendants were entrusted with caring for the infirm and elderly," said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge for the ICE office of investigations in Los Angeles. "People who enter the United States on visitor visas do not undergo the same degree of scrutiny as individuals who are coming into the country as legal foreign workers or immigrants."
According to court documents filed in the case, the Ngos counseled their illegal workers to enter into fraudulent marriages with U.S. citizens so they could remain in the country legally. The defendants allegedly told their employees to seek out potential spouses at Leisure World and on eHarmony.com.
The three defendants were arrested earlier this month on a criminal complaint. They are currently free on bond. The Ngos, both natives of the Philippines, are legal permanent residents of the United States. Sarabia, who is also a Filipino citizen, is in the country illegally.
ICE received substantial assistance in the investigation from the California Employment Development Department. ICE also coordinated closely with the California Department of Social Services Senior Care Program to ensure patients' welfare was not compromised during the probe.
Since ICE was established in March 2003, it has dramatically enhanced its efforts to combat the unlawful employment of illegal aliens in this country. In the first 11 months of this fiscal year, ICE made more than 1,000 criminal arrests tied to worksite enforcement investigations. Of the 1,022 individuals criminally arrested, 116 are owners, managers, supervisors or human resources employees facing charges including harboring or knowingly hiring illegal aliens. The remaining workers criminally arrested are facing charges including aggravated identity theft and Social Security fraud. ICE has also made more than 3,900 administrative arrests for immigration violations during worksite enforcement operations.