By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law



Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has filed a criminal forfeiture lawsuit against Vilhauer Enterprises, a Plano, Texas excavation company, due to the company continuing to employ undocumented immigrants after previously being caught and fined for it. ICE has seized $1.8 million from Vilhauer Enterprises’ bank accounts and asserts the money is proceeds from a crime: harboring undocumented workers.

Vilhauer Enterprises is the latest Texas company to be investigated by ICE in the past 14 months. Previously, I have written about ICE raids at Load Trail (see http://discuss.ilw.com/blogs/bbuchan...texas-employer) and CVE Technology Group (see http://discuss.ilw.com/blogs/bbuchan...years-in-texas).

The process started in 2015 when Vilhauer Enterprises was served a Notice of Inspection (NOI). In that audit, ICE served the company with a Notice of Suspect Documents alleging 113 employees provided suspicious documentation to obtain employment. Vilhauer Enterprises stated it would terminate the undocumented employees and paid a $750 fine to settle the case.

In September 2018, ICE served Vilhauer Enterprises with another NOI. The company submitted a total of 475 forms. ICE discovered 71 employees, who had reportedly been “terminated”, continued employment but under different names.

ICE alleges in the lawsuit that Vilhauer Enterprises has engaged in the practice of “pretending to terminate an illegal employee only for that employee to continue working under different identifying information.”

Executive Associate Director Derek N. Benner of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) said “Employers who use an illegal workforce as part of their business model put businesses that do follow the law at a competitive disadvantage.”

This forfeiture lawsuit is a continuation of a number of ICE cases where the employer has stated it terminated the employees from the Notice of Suspect Documents , who could not provide valid work authorization, but in fact the employees were rehired under a different name or through a staffing agency. In 2019, owners of KSO MetalFab Inc., an Illinois sheet metal fabrication company (http://discuss.ilw.com/blogs/bbuchan...mented-workers), and TentLogix, a Florida based tent rental business (http://discuss.ilw.com/blogs/bbuchan...fter-ice-audit), have been indicted for these criminal offenses. In the past few years, Asplundh Tree Experts and Waste Management have paid penalties of $95 million and $5.5 million, respectively, for similar criminal offenses.

If you fear you need assistance with your company’s I-9 compliance and related issues, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379. Alternatively, feel free to contact me for representation in these matters.