KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A northeastern Kansas drywall contractor and five others were charged in federal court Thursday for a conspiracy alleging money laundering, bank fraud and harboring illegal aliens.
These indictments resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation.
Keith L. Countess, 55, of Lawrence, Kansas, and five others were charged via a federal indictment alleging they were part of a scheme to convert more than $13 million in payroll checks into cash to pay crews of undocumented workers installing drywall in the Kansas City metro area.
“The indictment alleges the money flowed through an illegal pipeline,” said U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom. “At one end were contractors who wanted cheap labor. At the other end were undocumented workers who needed a job.”
The following five men have been charged in this case:
- Keith L. Countess, 55, from Lawrence, owner of Plaster Masters L.C., a drywall subcontractor for commercial and residential construction projects. The company is located at 619 N. 2nd in Lawrence.
- Marcos Lane Stubbs, 44, who is alleged to have devised the scheme to enable drywall subcontractors to use undocumented workers.
- Luis Felipe Guerrero-Guerrero, 26, who is alleged to have managed crews of workers installing drywall.
- Jose Felipe Hernandez-Calvillo, 39, who is alleged to have managed a crew of workers installing drywall.
- Mauro Papalotzi, 34, who is alleged to have managed crews of workers installing drywall.
- Isaac Gallegos, 35, who is alleged to have allowed the scheme to be operated out of his Boost Mobile telephone store. It was located in the 1300 block of Santa Fe in Olathe, Kansas.
The indictment alleges the scheme revolved around another man — Jose R. Torres, 51 — who was charged and convicted in a separate case. Torres pleaded guilty to one count of harboring undocumented workers and one count of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. He is awaiting sentencing.
The indictment alleges Gallegos and Stubbs first explained to Torres how the scheme would work, and how he could make money by becoming a financial intermediary between drywall subcontractors and drywall construction crews made up primarily of undocumented workers. They told Torres that in order to pay undocumented workers, someone had to serve as a financial conduit between the subcontractors and the workers. The subcontractors contracted directly with drywall crews but used Torres as a financial intermediary.
The scheme involved Torres holding himself out as a drywall subcontractor. In fact his role was merely to receive checks from drywall construction crews, deposit the checks into his own accounts, withdraw cash from his accounts and pay the crew leaders, who in turn paid themselves and the members of the crews. Torres kept five percent as his fee.
To get the venture started, Torres borrowed $1,400 from Gallegos, who allowed him to work out of Gallego’s Boost Mobile store in Olathe. Drywall crews were paid weekly. The subcontractor made checks payable to “Jose R. Torres Drywall.” The checks were taken to Torres, usually at the Boost Mobile store. Torres deposited the checks. Later, usually on Saturday mornings, he withdrew cash from his accounts. He put the cash into envelopes with the crew leaders’ names on them. The crew leaders picked up the envelopes, usually at the Boost Mobile store.
Between October 2012 and June 2014, checks totaling about $13.2 million were deposited into Torres’ accounts at Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
Upon conviction, the crimes carry the following penalties:
- Conspiracy to harbor undocumented workers: A maximum penalty of five years and a fine up to $250,000.
- Harboring undocumented workers: A maximum penalty of five years and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.
- Conspiracy to commit money laundering: A maximum penalty of five years and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.
- Money laundering: A maximum penalty of 20 years and a fine up to $500,000 on each count.
- Conspiracy to commit bank fraud: A maximum penalty of five years and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.
- Bank fraud: A maximum penalty of 30 years and a fine up to $1 million on each count.