ST. LOUIS – A local man and his company were sentenced Thursday in federal court to forfeitures and probation following their visa fraud guilty pleas. The sentences resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General.
Robert Brake, 33, of Byrnes Mill, Mo., along with his company, Brake Landscaping & Lawncare Inc., pleaded guilty in June to misdemeanor charges of employing illegal aliens. Brake Landscaping & Lawncare Inc. is located in the 3500 block of Gratiot Street in St. Louis. The company pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud. Brake and his company were sentenced to two years of probation. The company paid $145,000 in forfeitures.
The H-2B non-immigrant visa program permits employers to hire aliens to enter the United States to perform temporary, non-agricultural services on a one-time, seasonal, peak-load or intermittent basis. The number of H-2B visas available each fiscal year is limited and in high demand.
According to court documents, between March 2007 and February 2010, Robert Brake and his company illegally sub-contracted H-2B workers to an associate on a weekly basis at a profit of more than $2 per hour per alien. To facilitate illegally employing temporary H2B visa workers throughout the year, Brake Landscaping employees were hired by another company owned by Robert Brake, Brake Snow and Ice Removal, which artificially created a need for temporary or seasonal workers that didn't actually exist.
Assisting in this investigation were the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.