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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
06/14/2016

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2 Kansas-area roofing business owners, employee indicted for labor trafficking

Forced illegal workforce to pay kickbacks to company

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Tuesday alleges the two co-owners and an employee of a Kansas City roofing company intimidated and coerced illegal alien workers to pay kickbacks in violation of federal forced labor law.

This indictment resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with the assistance of the Kansas Department of Revenue, the Kansas sheriff’s departments of Clay and Wyandotte counties, and the Kansas police departments of Kansas City, Overland Park, Lenexa and Shawnee.

This indictment alleges the two owners of Century Roofing knowingly employed illegal aliens, using coercion, extortion and threats to control workers and force them to pay kickbacks. Their goal was to maximize their profits by cutting Century Roofing’s overhead costs and giving the company an unfair competitive advantage.

“This joint operation reflects our commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to bring human traffickers to justice,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge James Gibbons of HSI Chicago. “We are resolute in our efforts to not only arrest human traffickers, but also to rescue the human trafficking victims.”

“Unlawful business practices alleged in the indictment paint a picture of undocumented workers being manipulated by employers who played on their vulnerabilities — particularly their fear of being caught and deported from the United States,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall, District of Kansas.

This indictment alleges the owners of Century Roofing, of Kansas City, Kansas, used primarily illegal aliens who were paid in cash to complete commercial and residential roofing projects in the Kansas City metro area. The defendants are alleged to have used the following unlawful tactics to enrich themselves at the expense of workers:

  • Threatening to fire roofing crew leaders unless they paid cash kickbacks to the defendants.
  • Threatening to cause roofing crew leaders to be fired from jobs working for other companies — or to be unable to get jobs with other companies — unless they paid kickbacks to the defendants.
  • Threatening to take back work trucks provided to crew leaders unless they paid kickbacks, even when crew leaders were making loan payments, and paying for insurance and maintenance on the trucks.
  • Threatening to report workers to U.S. immigration authorities unless they paid kickbacks.
  • Threatening to report crew leaders to U.S. immigration authorities if they or their crews worked for other roofing companies without the defendants’ approval.
  • Threatening to report crew leaders to U.S. immigration authorities if they or their crews failed to complete work by deadlines set by the defendants.
  • Evicting or threatening to evict crew leaders from housing provided by defendants if they didn’t follow the defendants’ orders.

The defendants named in the indictment were arrested June 14 following the execution of search and arrest warrants at various locations around the Kansas City metro area.  The three defendants in the indictment include:

  • Tommy Frank Keaton, 70, of Shawnee, Kansas, co-owner of Canadian West Inc., and RAM Metal Products, doing business as Century Roofing;
  • Graziano Cornolo, 55, of Lenexa, Kansas, co-owner of Canadian West Inc., and RAM Metal Products, doing business as Century Roofing; and
  • Alberto Diaz-Hernandez, 33, a citizen of Mexico, an employee of Century Roofing.

Following are the charges in the indictment:

  • Conspiracy to obtain forced labor and benefit from forced labor (count one);
  • Obtaining and attempting to obtain forced labor (counts 2,3 and 4)
  • Benefitting from forced labor (counts 5, 6 and 7)
  • Conspiracy to transport undocumented workers in the United States and encouraging undocumented aliens to remain in the United States for the purpose of financial gain (count eight)
  • Transporting an undocumented worker in the United States (counts nine and 10).
  • Harboring an undocumented worker (counts 11, 12 and 13)
  • Encouraging or inducing undocumented workers to reside in the United States (count 14-17)

Upon conviction, these crimes carry the following penalties:

  • Counts 1-7 labor trafficking: Up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.
  • Count 8: Up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.
  • Counts 9-17 Transporting, encouraging undocumented workers to remain unlawfully in the United States: A maximum penalty of five years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

The public is reminded that all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty and that indictments merely contain allegations of criminal conduct.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 06/20/2016