Indictment: Managers helped illegal immigrants work - New York News

Indictment: Managers helped illegal immigrants work

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PHOENIX -

More than a dozen valley car washes were raided over the weekend -- managers, not just workers, were the targets.

Federal agents served search-and-arrest warrants Saturday at 16 locations associated with Danny's Family Car Wash and the company's staffing service provider, HR Betty.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents rounded up more than 200 employees. Many did not have criminal backgrounds and were released. The workers still jailed were shackled and still in their uniforms when they went before a federal judge Monday afternoon.

ICE says the investigation targets the owners and leaders of the two businesses and that multiple people, including 4 U.S. citizens and 10 Mexican nationals, face charges of criminal immigration fraud, identity theft and financial violations.

The investigation dates back to 2011 when a federal audit reveals about half of Danny's workforce presented insufficient documentation when they were hired.

According to the indictment, Danny's claimed to fire those workers, but many of them came back to work with a new identity.

The government claims 14 managers helped illegal immigrants return to work even though they knew they didn't have enough documentation. In the 28-page federal indictment, the government alleges that shortly after that audit, managers began rehiring people by allowing them to assume new identities.

According to the indictment, location managers and upper management assisted by "sometimes going so far as to help them secure counterfeit identification documents - and in falsifying the certification documents that needed to be completed during the re-hiring process."

Laura Torres' husband is one of 30 people arrested in the raid that remain in custody.

"My husband doesn't have a criminal record. My husband has dedicated his life to being a gymnast and bicyclist and to be with his children. Is that being a criminal?" asked Laura Torres.

"Laura's husband was deported 10 years ago and came back. I don't think that is something that makes someone dangerous to the community. To me, that means that he wanted to be here with his family and he wanted to work," added Tania Unzueta of the National Day Labor Organizing Network.

ICE said it was only focusing on the management of Danny's and the undocumented workers who have a criminal or deportation history. They let the rest go.

Eric Falbe, general counsel for Danny's Family Car Wash, says the company is cooperating with investigators. He declined further comment.

Statement from Nick Smith, President and CEO of HR Betty, "HR Betty is compliant with the law at all times.  We have assured our clients that all work as a professional employment organization (PEO) is exactly as described:  professional, responsible and accountable.  Marion "Mac" Magruder is the major shareholder and investor in HR Betty, but is not involved in day to day operations."

The 14 managers pleaded not guilty in court Monday. They will be back in court in October.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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