by Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser

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Five managers of a waste disposal company in Houston, Texas were recently indicted for conspiracy to employ illegal aliens, unlawfully employing illegal aliens, and encouraging and inducing illegal aliens to reside in the United States.

According to the allegations in the indictment, from about July 2008 through April 2012, the defendants encouraged undocumented workers to obtain false documentation, assigned false identities to undocumented workers and, in some cases, provided them with employment documents related to their false identity.

The indictment describes an alleged incident in January 31, 2012, in which the defendants and their co-conspirators "fired" at least 10 workers that they knew were unauthorized to work after an internal audit. Following the "termination" of these undocumented workers, the defendants allegedly told them they could come back to work if they got "good papers" belonging to other individuals, encouraged them to assume the identity of U.S. citizens or individuals who had authorization to reside and legally work in the country, and even assisted certain workers in obtaining false identities for employment and payroll purposes. The defendants then allegedly "rehired" at least 10 undocumented workers under their assumed identities and issued paychecks to them under the assumed name.

The individuals whose identities were assumed did not authorize or even know their identities were being used, according to the indictment. They were former employees or individuals who had applied for employment but were never hired. The indictment alleges information was stolen from their employment applications and other records.

Federal law requires employers to hire only U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and those who are authorized to work in the U.S. If convicted of encouraging and inducing aliens to reside or conspiracy to do so, the defendants face up to 10 years in federal prison. They further face another five years on any of the charges relating to the unlawful employment of illegal aliens. All charges also carry as possible punishment, a maximum fine of $250,000, upon conviction.

This indictment demonstrates that managers and other higher-ranking company officials, such as owners, presidents and vice-presidents, face criminal penalties for engaging in immigration-related violations related to the employment of undocumented workers.

The case has been unsealed, and the docket can be followed here:

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