ICE raises largest settlement of all time: Asplundh Tree Expert Co. pays $ 95 million | Fox Rothschild LLP
Asplundh Tree Expert Co., one of the largest privately held companies in the country with 30,000 employees and 3.5 billion in annual sales, according to Forbes, has been asked to pay $ 95 million in the highest fine on a company that hired thousands of immigrants, which is said to be Federal officials were not allowed to work in the United States. Asplundh, a 90-year-old family business with 30,000 employees in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, cleans scrub and vegetation from power and gas lines and has many contacts with local, state and federal authorities.
According to the Philadelphia US Attorney’s Office, Asplundh employed thousands of undocumented workers between 2010 and 2014, with top management remaining “willfully blind” while lower-level managers hired and re-hired people they knew they knew were not eligible to work in the United States, ”the office said. In addition to losing $ 80 million, Asplundh faces a $ 15 million civil fine for failing to comply with immigration law. Asplundh employed thousands of undocumented workers between 2010 and 2014, with top management “deliberately blind” while lower-level supervisors hired people they knew were illegally in the country to maximize profits.
Homeland Security Investigations began auditing Asplundh Tree Experts on November 19, 2009 to ensure the company was complying with federal laws regarding the recruitment of immigrants. After Asplundh received a list of names, Asplundh fired hundreds of his employees who were not allowed to work in the United States. Others quit before they could be released. After Asplundh acted as if it was complying with HSI requirements, Asplundh instead redoubled its illegal practices, according to federal agencies. Many of the employees Asplundh had just fired were reinstated under different names with forged or illegally obtained documents. One of their regional managers, Larry Gauger, even went so far as to tell the supervisors who worked under him that they had “plausible deniability” because their illegally obtained social security numbers in the E-verify database matched positively, it is said in court records. Gauger has pleaded guilty and is due to be sentenced next month.
“This decentralized model has tacitly perpetuated fraudulent hiring practices, which in turn have maximized productivity and profits,” prosecutors said in a statement. “With a motivated workforce, including unauthorized foreigners, ready to be relocated and respond to weather-related events across the country, Asplundh had easy-to-mobilize crews that enabled them to dominate the market.”
ICE issued a statement on September 28, 2017“Today marks the end of a lengthy investigation into ICE Homeland Security Investigations into employment violations committed by the highest levels of the Asplundh organization,” said ICE Executive Director Thomas Homan. “Today’s ruling sends a strong, clear message to employers planning to hire and retain illegal immigrants: We will find you and hold you accountable. Violations that manipulate hiring laws are a pull factor for illegal immigration and we will continue to take steps to remove this magnet. “
In a statement on its website, Asplundh said that the company’s officials “accept responsibility for the allegations described and we apologize to our customers, employees and all other stakeholders for the incidents”. Asplundh added that it is reviewing the identification of each employee and adding a photo ID system that includes the same facial recognition software used by ICE. The company is also hiring a compliance specialist who is trained in ID verification in each region in which it operates.
Employers should remain vigilant and vigilant in their I-9 compliance practices. Asplundh’s investigation is a compliance lesson that shows that liability is not just in records, but also in an employer’s procedures, policies and practices. An ICE investigation can be triggered from a variety of sources, from an enforcement initiative within Homeland Security Investigations to a notice from an individual to the exchange of data between government agencies (SSA, IRS, DOL, etc.). An ICE investigation can not only lead to financial losses due to fines. This type of investigation, which can often last for years, results in the loss of employees and damage to the company’s reputation and image, which affects relationships with customers and the public in general. Our best practice recommendation is that employers should prepare to conduct private internal audits before ICE knocks.