EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. - Two Illinois construction companies pleaded guilty and were sentenced in federal court on Friday on charges related to unlawfully employing illegal aliens. The sentences resulted from a worksite enforcement investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Wedekemper's Inc. and Wedekemper's Construction Inc., both of Carlyle, Ill., pleaded guilty April 23 in the Southern District of Illinois to six counts of being an accessory after the fact to willful failure to register.
Following the guilty plea, the court fined Wedekemper's Inc. and Wedekemper's Constructlon Inc. $500 and $2,500, respectively. The companies were also ordered to pay a $50 special assessment fee per count.
As part of the plea agreement, Wedekemper's Inc. also agreed to forfeit $5,500 and Wedekemper's Construction Inc. agreed to a forfeiture of $12,500. Additionally, both companies were ordered to participate in the E-Verify employment eligibility verification system for a period of five years. E-Verify is an Internet-based system administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. There is no cost for employers to participate in E-Verify.
The investigation was initiated in June 2009 when the ICE office in St. Louis, Mo., received information that a previously deported alien was employed by Wedekemper's Constructions Inc. Further investigation by ICE revealed that several other illegal aliens were also employed by the company.
ICE agents arrested seven employees of Wedekemper's Construction Inc. during the investigation. Six were later charged with various criminal offenses, including misusing a Social Security number, possessing a fraudulent Alien Registration Receipt Card (green card), and reentry after deportation.
"Employers in all industries and locations must comply with U.S. immigration laws if we are to have an effective immigration enforcement strategy in this country," said James Ward, resident agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in St. Louis. "ICE is creating a culture of compliance in the workplace by holding employers accountable and leveling both criminal and civil fines against those who violate immigration laws."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Deirdre A. Durborow, Southern District of Illinois, prosecuted the case.