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April 8, 2016Houston, TX, United StatesLabor Exploitation

Federal jury convicts 2 Houston waste disposal company managers of identity theft, unlawfully employing illegal aliens

HOUSTON — A federal jury on Friday convicted two Salvadorian nationals, both residing in Houston, on all counts as charged in a conspiracy to employ 10 or more illegal aliens within a 12-month period.

This conviction was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston.

Guilty verdicts were returned April 8 against Rudy Alexander Martinez, 36, and Israel Arquimides Martinez, 44, following a two-week jury trial and about six hours of deliberation. Both were convicted of the conspiracy as well as employing illegal aliens, encouraging and inducing illegal aliens to reside in the United States, and conspiracy to do same, as well as aggravated identity theft.

“Since employment is the primary driving force behind illegal immigration, many individuals who illegally enter the United States rely on dishonest businesses to obtain employment,” said Sean McElroy, acting special agent in charge of HSI Houston. “HSI will continue to investigate and bring to justice businesses and individuals who employ illegal aliens and violate this nation’s labor laws.”

The federal jury heard that both defendants were employees of a waste disposal company and worked at one of the company’s locations in Houston. Rudy Martinez was a commercial route manager, while Israel Martinez was the residential operations lead driver. From about July 30, 2008, until about April 24, 2012, both defendants conspired to hire and continued to employ aliens at the company that they knew were not authorized to work in the U.S.

Federal law requires employers to hire only U.S. citizens and aliens who are authorized to work here. However, the defendants and others hired manual laborers with little or no regard to their legal work status. Internal audits were conducted, after which the defendants and co-conspirators failed to take corrective measures to ensure the employing company hired workers authorized to work in the United States. They also continued to employ illegal aliens after receiving information, in some cases from the aliens themselves, which indicated the person was not authorized to work in the U.S.

The jury also heard that the defendants encouraged illegal aliens to obtain false documentation and assigned false identities to illegal aliens. In some cases, they also provided the illegal aliens with employment documents related to the false identity the aliens assumed so they could remain employed as helpers at the waste disposal company’s Houston location.

The individuals whose identities were assumed did not authorize or even know their identities were assumed by these illegal aliens at the direction and encouragement of the conspirators. These individuals were often former employees of the companies, or individuals who had applied for employment but were never hired. Their information was stolen from documentation and records they executed in connection with their application for employment. The defendants and their co-conspirators entered an individual’s information into the payroll system and the illegal alien received a paycheck for their work under the other individual’s name.

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. During the “termination” process, the defendants informed and encouraged unauthorized aliens to assume the identity of actual U.S. citizens or individuals who had legal status to reside and work here. They also informed illegal aliens they could come back to work if they got “good papers” belonging to other individuals. Following their termination, the defendants and their co-conspirators assigned false identities to the terminated aliens and assisted them with obtaining related identifiers to use for employment and payroll purposes. The defendants then “rehired” at least 10 aliens under their assumed identities.

For conspiracy to encourage and induce aliens to reside or encouraging or inducing aliens to reside in the United States, both face up to 10 years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine. For unlawfully employing unauthorized aliens or the conspiracy to so, they also face up to five years in prison as well as a $250,000 fine. In addition, the conviction for aggravated identity theft also carries a mandatory 24 months which must be served consecutively to any other prison term imposed. Sentencing is scheduled for July 29.

Following these convictions, the court ordered the defendants into custody. 

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Casey N. MacDonald and Douglas Davis, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting this case.