HOUSTON — Houston-based Waste Management of Texas has agreed to forfeit more than $5.5 million and perform remedial measures for a documented pattern and practice of hiring illegal aliens at the company’s Afton, Texas, location.
The five-year investigation that led to the forfeiture was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston, Texas.
On Aug. 29, to avoid prosecution, Waste Management of Texas entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the federal government that required the company to forfeit $5,527,091.55, and perform remedial measures.
“The non-prosecution agreement requires Waste Management to continue its substantial remedial measures to address all past immigration violations and forfeit more than $5.5 million in proceeds gained from hiring an illegal workforce at the Afton location,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick, U.S. Southern District of Texas. “In considering whether to enter into such agreements, we must take into account the collateral consequences that a criminal prosecution would have on the company’s contracts with many municipalities across the country and the thousands of employees for the conduct of three managers at one operating unit in Houston.”
Waste Management Inc. is North America’s leading provider of waste disposal and collection headquartered in Houston. The company serves nearly 20 million municipal, commercial, industrial and residential customers. Waste Management of Texas employed at least three managers at its Afton location who actively encouraged and induced aliens to work illegally between 2003 and April 2012.
In April 2012, HSI Houston executed search warrants at the Afton, Texas, location where authorities discovered 16 illegal aliens and at least 100 employees in company records who were verified as fraudulently documented or using an identity that did not belong to them.
Waste Management of Texas hired various staffing agencies to provide contract laborers. Many were hired or rehired at the Afton location in reckless disregard of the fact that they were not authorized to work. The undocumented workforce allowed the company to maintain their preferred helper workforce to maximize profits and productivity. The estimated proceeds to the company derived from this conduct at the Afton location is $5,527,091.55 — the amount forfeited to the United States.
Managers at the Afton location fired at least 10 employees in January 2012 because they lacked documentation. The aliens were told to assume the identity of actual U.S. citizens or individuals with legal status in order to work there. Managers also engaged in an identity-theft scheme providing the terminated aliens with names and identifiers of actual individuals with status in the United States to allow the illegal aliens to be employed and added to the company’s payroll.
A federal grand jury indicted three managers in May 2014 for engaging in a conspiracy between 2008 and 2012 to induce and encourage unlawful immigration through a scheme to employ illegal aliens as helpers on waste trucks picking up garbage in and around Houston. All three managers were convicted and received sentences of 27, 87 and 94 months in federal prison.
Waste Management of Texas cooperated with the government’s criminal investigation and conducted its own internal investigation. The company determined that the managers at its Afton location intentionally thwarted pre-existing immigration compliance procedures that have since been enhanced to prevent future hiring of unauthorized aliens seeking employment by fraud or identity theft.