SEATTLE - A Washington state engine re-manufacturing company and two of its corporate directors were sentenced this afternoon in federal court on felony immigration violations, following a worksite enforcement investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Court Judge James L. Robart ordered Yamato Engine Specialists of Bellingham, Wash., to pay a $100,000 fine. The company paid $50,000 today and must pay the balance by the end of the year.
Yamato pleaded guilty earlier today to felony charges of encouraging and inducing an illegal alien to reside in the United States. Last month, two of Yamato's corporate directors, Shafique Amirali Dhanani, 46, and Shirin Dhanani Makalai, 52, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the use of a false statement on immigration employment forms. They were each sentenced to one year probation.
In addition to the fine, the company has agreed to take out a half-page advertisement in the Bellingham Herald. It will contain a letter advising the public of the impact the immigration violations have had on the company.
"Today's guilty plea is yet another example of ICE's commitment to ensuring that businesses are held accountable for their hiring practices," said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE John Morton. "We will continue to focus our investigative resources on employers who knowingly hire an illegal workforce and ensure that jobs and opportunities are available for our nation's lawful residents."
In the plea agreement, Yamato admits that it employed Jorge Collado-Sanchez in 2003. He left the company on Jan. 1, 2006, following an ICE audit of the company's I-9 forms in late 2005.
Collado-Sanchez returned to work at Yamato in June 2006, completing his employment paperwork with documents that did not belong to him. An administrative employee of Yamato accepted the false documents, using them to satisfy the requirement that a company verifies a potential employee's legal status to work in the United States.
Collado-Sanchez remained employed at Yamato until Feb. 24, 2009, when ICE conducted a workplace enforcement action at the company's Bellingham plant. During that enforcement action, ICE agents encountered Collado-Sanchez and 27 other workers who were found to be unlawfully employed illegal aliens.
None of the workers have been prosecuted criminally. All of them were placed in immigration removal proceedings, but were allowed to remain in the country as potential witnesses pending the conclusion of the criminal prosecution of Yamato and its corporate directors. The removal proceedings against the workers are now being reinstated.
In April, ICE implemented a new, comprehensive strategy to reduce the demand for illegal employment and protect employment opportunities for the nation's lawful workforce. Under this strategy, ICE focuses its resources on building criminal cases against employers and auditing those who cultivate illegal workplaces by knowingly employing illegal workers.