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July 15, 2014Houston, TX, United StatesLabor Exploitation

4 Houston residents charged with employing illegal aliens

The indictment alleges that identities of former employees were provided to the aliens, as well as identities of individuals who had applied for jobs but were not hired

HOUSTON — Four local residents and one from Puerto Rico were charged Wednesday in a 13-count indictment involving a conspiracy to employ illegal aliens, and encouraging and inducing illegal aliens to reside in the United States.

These charges were announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas, and Special Agent in Charge Brian Moskowitz with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

The indictment was returned under seal May 21 and unsealed in its entirety July 16 after Ceasar Santiago Arroyo, 49, of Puerto Rico, surrendered to agents in Houston. He is expected to make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Wm. Smith Wednesday. Also charged and previously arrested were the following Houston residents: Mary Louise Flores, 43, Fernando Emmanuel Bustos, 31, Rudy Alexander Martinez, 33, and Israel Arquimides Martinez, 37.

They are all charged with conspiracy, and encouraging and inducing illegal aliens to reside in the U.S.; they are also charged with conspiracy to and unlawfully employing illegal aliens.

According to allegations in the indictment, Arroyo, Rudy Martinez and Israel Martinez were employees of a waste disposal company and worked at the company's Afton Road location in Houston. Arroyo was the district operations manager; Rudy Martinez and Israel Martinez were the commercial route manager and residential operations lead driver, respectively. Flores and Bustos were employed by a staffing company in Houston and worked as managers onsite at the waste disposal company's Afton location, according to the indictment.

From on or around July 30, 2008, through on or around April 24, 2012, the five defendants allegedly conspired to hire and continue to employ aliens that they knew were unauthorized work in the U.S. at the waste disposal company's Afton location in Houston.

Federal law requires employers to hire only U.S. citizens and aliens who are authorized to work in the country. However, according to allegations, they hired manual laborers with little or no regard to their legal status.

The defendants and their co-conspirators allegedly failed to take corrective measures to ensure the hired workers were authorized to work in the U.S. The indictment alleges that even after internal audits demonstrated the workers were, in fact, unauthorized to work in the country, the defendants continued to facilitate their continued employment. In some cases, the aliens themselves provided information indicating they were not eligible to work in the U.S.

According to the allegations, the defendants encouraged illegal aliens to obtain false documentation, assigned false identities to illegal aliens and, in some cases, provided them with employment documents related to their false identity. The individuals whose identities were assumed did not authorize or even know their identities were being used, according to the indictment. Those individuals were often former employees of the companies, or individuals who had applied for employment but were never hired. The indictment alleges information was stolen from documentation and records executed in connection with applications for employment. The defendants and their co-conspirators allegedly entered information from the assumed identities of others, resulting in a paycheck for the illegal alien under the other individual's name.

According to the allegations, on or around Jan. 31, 2012, the defendants and their co-conspirators "fired" at least 10 helpers they knew to be unauthorized aliens purportedly because the aliens failed to supply documentation establishing they were legally present and authorized to work in the U.S. The indictment alleges that during their "termination," the defendants encouraged them to assume the identity of U.S. citizens or individuals who had authorization to reside and legally work in the country. The defendants also allegedly informed illegal aliens that they could come back to work if they got "good papers" belonging to other individuals. Following the "termination" of these illegal aliens, the defendants and their co-conspirators assigned false identities to certain aliens and assisted said aliens in obtaining related identifiers to use for employment and payroll purposes, according to the charges. The defendants then allegedly "rehired" at least 10 aliens under their assumed identities.

If convicted of encouraging and inducing aliens to reside or conspiracy to do so, all face up to 10 years in federal prison. They further face another five years on any of the charges relating to the unlawful employment of illegal aliens. All charges also carry as possible punishment, a maximum fine of $250,000, upon conviction.

This investigation leading to the charges was conducted by HSI. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Casey N. MacDonald and Suzanne Elmilady, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting this case.

An Indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.

Updated: 09/23/2014