By Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser

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Grand America Hotels and Resorts, a subsidiary of the Sinclair Services Company, will forfeit $1.95 million for hiring unauthorized workers pursuant to a non-prosecution agreement between the company, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

In reaching this agreement, the company will avoid criminal prosecution in exchange for its full cooperation and remedial action in the wake of HSI's investigation into the hiring practices at its hotel and resort properties in Arizona, California, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah.

According to facts set forth in the agreement, several lower-level Grand America employees and mid-level managers conspired to re-hire unauthorized workers despite an ICE audit of I-9 forms that began in September 2010. A year later, ICE-HSI issued a Notice of Suspect Documents to Grand America stating that 133 employees were not authorized to work in the United States. After the Notice, the employees could not produce documentation that they were authorized to work. The company was issued a warning notice and Grand America informed HSI that it had terminated the employees.

However, HSI later discovered that the conspirators created three temporary employment agencies or “shell companies” between August 2011 and October 2011, to re-hire 43 of the unauthorized workers. The agreement says most of the workers returned to work using different names and fraudulent identity documents.

In addition to forfeiting $1.95 million to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Grand America will be required to take substantial remedial measures, which could cost up to $500,000 to implement. Such measures include: adopting new corporate policies to comply with immigration law; incorporating immigration law compliance clauses into the company’s labor service contracts; re-training human resources employees on I-9 compliance procedures; and agreeing to continue using E-Verify in the hiring of new employees. Grand America also agreed to retain immigration counsel to advise the company regarding hiring and immigration procedures.

Grand America avoided criminal prosecution and fully cooperated with HSI’s investigation. Prosecutors said the company handed over all incriminating evidence it obtained through its own internal investigation, and fired the managers who were involved in the conspiracy. The government will seek to prosecute the conspirators separately.

This news is a reminder to employers of the wealth of remedies available to ICE-HSI for immigration violations.