By Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser

A Kansas hotel co-owner, Rhonda R. Bridge, was sentenced in federal court to 21 months in prison for employing undocumented workers at two hotels in the Kansas City area. In addition to her prison sentence, Bridge also agreed to forfeit her interest in two hotels and the funds derived from the crime.

According to court records, the investigation began in December 2011 when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents and agents with the state's Department of Revenue received information that the owners of the hotels were employing foreign nationals who were not lawfully present in the United States. In June 2012, an undercover agent posing as an illegal alien got a job at the Overland Park hotel. He was hired even though he told his employers he was not authorized to work in the United States. In 2011 and 2012, the defendants filed false and fraudulent Quarterly Wage Reports and Unemployment Tax Returns with the Kansas Department of Labor, in which they under-reported the number of employees at the Overland Park hotel, the amount of total wages paid and the amount of unemployment taxes due.

By this scheme, Bridge lowered the hotels' operating costs and put the hotels at a competitive advantage by not paying social security, workers compensation and unemployment insurance for the undocumented workers.