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Nearly $700,000 from asset seizures presented to Michigan sheriff's office

Local law enforcement assisted ICE-led investigation of national hiring fraud scheme

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - The Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Office was presented with a check for $697,038.90 today from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Attorney's Office in recognition of its role in the investigation and successful prosecution of a nationwide janitorial and grounds-keeping service that was staffed almost exclusively with illegal aliens. The officers of Rosenbaum-Cunningham International, Inc. (RCI), a Florida-based company that also operated in Michigan, evaded over $15 million in federal employment taxes.

The sheriff department's involvement began in 2005, when it opened an investigation into then-State of Michigan employee San Juanita Schlagel for selling Social Security Administration numbers to illegal aliens.

"ICE is proud to join our federal partners in recognizing the key role that our local law enforcement partners played in bringing RCI and its leadership to justice," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Detroit. "Taking this money out of the hands of criminals and putting it into the hands of local law enforcement sends the right message. We know that these funds will allow the Grand Traverse Sheriff's Department to continue the excellent work they do."

The funds constitute a portion of the assets that were obtained when the U.S. Attorney's Office seized the bank accounts and other assets of the principal defendants in the 2007-2008 federal prosecution of RCI.

U.S. Attorney Donald A. Davis distributed them in accordance with the U.S. Treasury Department's equitable sharing program, which applies to assets seized by the federal government as proceeds of criminal activity.

The case made national news in February 2007, when the 23-count indictment was unsealed in Grand Rapids in conjunction with a nationwide ICE enforcement operation at locations where RCI employees worked that resulted in the arrest and detention of hundreds of illegal aliens.

After ICE and the U.S. Attorney's Office joined the investigation, the sheriff's department assisted in executing two federal search warrants at Schlagel's office and home. She, in turn, alerted authorities to the activities of Santiago Echaniz, an RCI employee who oversaw the performance of RCI workers who were subcontracted to the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. From there, the investigation led to the principal officers of RCI in Florida, and then to RCI locations across the United States, including such restaurants as Hard Rock Café, Planet Hollywood, Dave and Busters, and ESPN Zone. The investigation also discovered major federal tax violations by RCI, which resulted in sheriff's department investigators working with agents of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations Division as well.

The investigation eventually resulted in the seizure of bank accounts, vehicles, boats, real estate and currency worth roughly $3.5 million and led to prison sentences as high as ten years for RCI president Richard Rosenbaum. Between 2001 and 2005, RCI was paid over $54,327,000 by its client companies, including the Grand Traverse Resort. The company at one time employed 1,000 workers. By failing to collect and pay Federal income, Social Security and Medicare, and Federal employment taxes on the wages it paid to its workforce, RCI was able to evade payment of over $15,675,000 in employment taxes.