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Document and Benefit Fraud

Eastern Missouri company pleads guilty to visa fraud charges

ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Three Generations, a related company to Proffer Wholesale, pleaded guilty to conspiring with Proffer Wholesale to commit visa fraud, and has agreed to pay $350,000. This plea was announced Wednesday by U.S. Attorney Catherine L. Hanaway, Eastern District of Missouri. The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

"Proffer Wholesale and Three Generations committed visa fraud by making false statements in applications for non-agricultural work visas," said Hanaway. "This office will continue to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Labor to prosecute those who purposely try to manipulate the legal system."

"These immigration enforcement actions send a strong signal to any business that may consider gaming the immigration system as Proffer Wholesale Produce and Three Generations did," said James Ward, resident agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in St. Louis. "We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify and investigate these businesses to maintain the integrity of the immigration system." Ward oversees eastern Missouri and southern Illinois.

According to court documents, Proffer Wholesale is a produce-distribution company based in Park Hills, Mo. Beginning in October 2003, Proffer Wholesale applied with the U.S. Department of Labor for labor certification necessary for H-2B Visas for employees based on a temporary nonagricultural work need. H-2B visas issued to Proffer Wholesale authorized employment for up to six months. Anticipating the benefits of year-round alien workers, a second corporation under Proffer's control, Three Generations, began to advertise for H-2B visas for time periods not covered by Proffer Wholesale's H-2B visas. Three Generations, although legally a separate corporation from Proffer Wholesale, actually performed the same work of produce distribution using the same facilities as Proffer Wholesale. In this manner, year-round alien employment was obtained through the H-2B visa program which was designed strictly for seasonal employment.

Between October 2003 and October 2007, Proffer Wholesale and Three Generations applied for more than 500 H-2B visas. None of these H-2B visas would have been approved had Proffer Wholesale and Three Generations made accurate and truthful statements on the applications.

Three Generations pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud before U.S. District Judge Catherine D. Perry. As part of the plea agreement, the corporation paid $350,000 to the Department of Homeland Security at the Dec. 17 proceeding.

Hanaway commended the work on the case by: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General; and Assistant U.S. Attorney John J. Ware, Eastern District of Missouri, who is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney's Office.