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11/20/2014

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Arizona car wash chain owner and managers sentenced in company-wide scheme to employ unauthorized aliens

All 14 defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit identity theft

PHOENIX — The former owner, along with 13 other defendants who once served as managers or supervisors at the locally prominent Danny’s Family Car Wash (DFC) chain, were sentenced in federal court Thursday and Friday for their roles in a multi-year corporate scheme involving identity theft to employ unauthorized aliens. The sentences are the result of an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Company owner Daniel Lewis “Danny” Hendon, 64, of Paradise Valley, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Neil V. Wake to 12 months in prison followed by a year of home confinement. Hendon also agreed to divest himself of any future ownership, managerial or profit-sharing interest in the DFC organization. The remaining defendants received sentences ranging from probation to three months in prison. In addition, the corporate entities that compose the DFC organization which previously pleaded guilty to employing unauthorized aliens were ordered to forfeit over $156,000. All of the defendants previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit identity theft.

“Today’s sentences should send a strong message to the Arizona business community – companies that knowingly employ unauthorized aliens will be punished severely,” said John Leonardo, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona. “The hiring scheme at Danny’s Car Wash not only harmed the individuals whose identities were stolen, but also was unfair to competing businesses that sought to play by the rules with respect to their labor costs and practices.”

“These sentences again give notice to employers who exploit illegal alien labor about the consequences of violating our nation’s laws,” said Matt Allen, special agent in charge of HSI in Arizona. “Our goal is to protect job opportunities for the nation’s legal workers and level the playing field for those businesses that play by the rules. The bottom line is businesses that use illegal alien workers to gain an economic advantage over their competition must understand they will potentially pay a price for those unlawful practices.”

In April 2011, DFC was forced to terminate over 900 employees after an audit by HSI special agents revealed those employees had presented fraudulent, insufficient, or ineligible documents at the time of their initial hire. Although DFC initially attempted to hire lawful employees as replacements, those replacements quickly proved ineffective and/or too expensive. In response, Hendon instructed the company’s managers to “bring back” the old employees. Although some managers expressed discomfort with this instruction, they were threatened with the loss of their jobs if they refused to comply.

As a result, beginning in mid-2011, DFC embarked upon a multi-year, company-wide scheme to rehire the unauthorized aliens who had previously been terminated. These aliens routinely used someone else’s identification in order to pass their E-Verify background check, and DFC’s management was aware of, and in fact, often facilitated the crime. The scheme continued until August 2013, when HSI special agents executed search warrants at DFC’s corporate headquarters and at various DFC car wash locations sites. Over 230 unauthorized aliens were working for DFC on the date of the search.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 11/26/2014