SAN DIEGO - The owner of a San Diego-area bakery and three of its employees are facing federal conspiracy charges following a 13-month investigation into the company's hiring practices by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
A three-count criminal complaint filed in federal court here Thursday charges the owner of S&S Bakery, Inc., Jesse Fadick; two supervisors, Rigoberto Sarmiento-Machuca, 35, and Rogelio Machuca-Sarmiento, 46; and a bakery employee, Abel Baizabal, with harboring illegal aliens. Fadick, 64, and Baizabal, 38, are also charged with falsifying Social Security numbers and providing fraudulent immigration documents to illegal aliens working at the bakery. The defendants are expected to be arraigned in federal court on or before October 18. If convicted on the charges, they each face a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.
The three employees charged in the primary complaint are Mexican nationals who were also working illegally at the bakery. Investigators determined that a fourth illegal worker found at the bakery, Norma Angelica Flores, 42, of Mexico, had been previously deported in 2005. Flores is charged separately with illegally reentering the United States after deportation, a violation that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The charges were filed Thursday after HSI agents executed five search warrants related to the case, including one at the business in Otay Mesa, Calif. At the bakery, HSI agents took 41 unauthorized alien workers into custody on administrative immigration violations. Nineteen of those individuals are being held as material witnesses in the case; the remainder were processed and released pending a hearing before an immigration judge.
"ICE is commited to holding employers accountable when they knowingly hire an illegal workforce," said Mike Unzueta, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego. "Employers who willfully violate our nation's hiring laws not only contribute to the job magnet that fuels much of this country's illegal immigration, but they make it even more difficult for lawful workers to find employment in this challenging economy."
HSI agents say they received tips from the public that S&S Bakery hired illegal workers, including one from a former employee. According to the criminal complaint, during the course of the investigation, HSI agents worked with an informant who identified dozens of illegal workers at the bakery and recorded numerous conversations, including one in which the owner allegedly changed delivery routes so the workers would not be detected by immigration authorities.
In 2009, ICE implemented a comprehensive strategy to reduce the demand for illegal employment and protect employment opportunities for the nation's lawful workforce. Under this strategy, ICE is focusing its resources on auditing and investigating employers suspected of knowingly employing illegal workers. The goal of the enforcement strategy is to promote national security, protect critical infrastructure and ensure fair labor standards. ICE is using all available criminal and administrative tools, including civil fines and debarment, to penalize and deter illegal employment.
In fiscal year 2010, ICE criminally charged a record-breaking 180 business owners, employers, managers in connection with worksite investigations, compared to 135 in fiscal year 2008 and 114 in fiscal year 2009. In addition to the criminal charges, ICE conducted more than 2,200 I-9 audits in fiscal year 2010, compared to 1,400 in fiscal year 2009.