made about $40,000 in cash withdrawals from company accounts to compensate the illegal workers.
"These company executives knew they were breaking the law. The secret night shift and the envelopes stuffed with cash are signs of illegal conduct that cannot be ignored," said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. "Employers need to know there is a heavy price to pay – in this case a million dollars – for knowingly hiring those who are not authorized to work in the United States."
HSI special agents and forensic auditors worked closely with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington in the criminal prosecution of this case.
Last fiscal year, employers nationwide were ordered to pay nearly $10.5 million in civil fines for hiring violations. In addition, criminal charges were filed against a record-breaking 221 owners, employers, managers and/or supervisors – up from 196 in fiscal year 2010.
Officials say businesses can avoid facing these types of penalties by taking proactive steps to ensure their workforce is legal by making a good faith effort to verify employment eligibility.
"Employers aren't expected to be forensic document experts, that's why E-Verify was created," said Bench. "It's a free and relatively easy way to authenticate employment eligibility over the Internet."
E-Verify is an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee's I-9 employment eligibility verification form, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.
Bench says businesses around the country are participating in ICE's Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE) program. IMAGE participants volunteer for an I-9 audit, they receive training in I-9 compliance and documentation fraud detection, and commit to using E-Verify. Employers can find more information about IMAGE online at http://www.ice.gov/image.