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Financial Crimes
05/09/2019

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Georgia business owner, illegal alien charged with exploiting illegal workers

Georgia business owner, illegal alien charged with exploiting illegal workers
U.S. Attorney Northern District of Georgia Bjay Pak announces federal felony charges pursuant to a years-long HSI Atlanta investigation into a Mexican national illegally employing and exploiting workers across Georgia and Tennessee.

ROME, Ga. – Unlawfully present Mexican national Juan Antonio Perez, 46, was indicted on federal felony charges May 7 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia pursuant to a years-long investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) that culminated in the simultaneous execution of six federal search warrants in Georgia and Tennessee last week resulting in the federal criminal charges issued Wednesday.

According to court documents, Perez is charged with using his construction company, Aztec Framing, which operated in northwest Georgia and eastern Tennessee, to unlawfully profit by employing illegal aliens and paying them below-market wages. This allowed Perez to undercut legitimate business competitors who were unable to compete due to his illegal business practices. Perez is also charged with being an illegal alien in possession of 14 firearms – federal law prohibits illegal aliens from possessing firearms.

“Individuals, like Mr. Perez, who flagrantly violate federal law to give themselves an unfair business advantage are cheating both law-abiding employers and employees exploited by these unfair and illegal labor practices,” said Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations Atlanta Nick S. Annan. “This case is an illustration of serious threats to public safety on numerous levels.  Homeland Security Investigations will continue to focus not only on workers who violate federal law but also their employers.”

“Perez not only broke the law by allegedly hiring illegal aliens at below-market wages and paying no taxes, he had a large assortment of weapons including shotguns and pistols that he had acquired through various means other than buying them himself,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Byung J. “BJay” Pak.  “Illegal aliens, such as Perez, are not allowed to own firearms at all.  We will get to the bottom of how he acquired them.”

According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the indictment, and other information presented in court: Perez allegedly came to the United States illegally in 1992. He has lived in Bartow County, Georgia, and has operated Aztec Framing at least since 2009. Aztec Framing has offices in Cartersville and Rossville, Georgia, and Hixon, Tennessee.

Perez allegedly employed illegal aliens at below-market rates, provided no benefits or insurance, and did not pay payroll taxes or Social Security.  Perez allegedly used the proceeds of his illegal activity to build a 7,500-square-foot house, bought other houses where he allowed some of his employees to live, and purchased more than 50 sports cars and heavily customized trucks. Yet, as of April 2019, the Georgia Department of Labor had no record of Perez reporting any income.  Perez was also known to collect firearms and was found to have 14 in his home when agents searched it April 30.

Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges.  The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

This case is being investigated by ICE Homeland Security Investigations with assistance from the Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad, and the Polk County Drug Task Force.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Traynor is prosecuting the case.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 05/09/2019