Tree Trimming Company to Pay Record $95 Million Fine for Unlawful Employment of Illegal Workers

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On September 28, 2017, Asplundh Tree Experts, Co. – one of the largest privately-held companies in the United States – was sentenced to pay a forfeiture money judgment of $80,000,000.00 and an additional $15,000,000.00 to satisfy civil claims arising out of their failure to comply with U.S. immigration law by unlawfully employing illegal workers, according to a press release from the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The DOJ announced Asplundh – headquartered in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania – pled guilty to unlawfully employing illegal workers in a scheme where “the highest levels of Asplundh management remained willfully blind while lower level managers hired and rehired employees they knew to be ineligible to work in the United States.” The $95,000,000.00 recovery is the largest payment ever levied in an immigration case.

“Our partners at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Philadelphia are to be commended for their work on this lengthy audit and investigation, spanning 6 years,” Acting United States Attorney Louis D. Lappen said in a statement. “Today’s settlement and the compliance agreement makes it clear, that companies must play by the rules and treat everyone fairly.”

From 2010 until December 2014, Asplundh – an industry leader in tree trimming and brush clearance for power and gas lines – hired and rehired employees “accepting identification documents it knew to be false and fraudulent.” A six-year HSI audit and investigation revealed the company decentralized hiring so management could remain “willfully blind” while supervisors and foremen hired illegal workers.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Philadelphia and is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Josh A. Davison and Assistant United States Attorney L.C. Wright. The press release is available at www.justice.gov/usao-edpa/pr/asplundh-tree-experts-co-pleads-guilty-unlawful-employment-aliens.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 makes it “unlawful for a person or other entity… to hire, or to recruit or refer for a fee, for employment in the United States an alien knowing the alien is an unauthorized alien.” Employers that hire illegal workers may be subjected to federal civil and criminal sanctions. The IRCA also requires employers to take steps to verify an employee’s eligibility for employment.

In September of 2017, ESR News reported that U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) introduced to Congress “The Legal Workforce Act” (H.R. 3711) which would require all U.S. employers to use the web-based E-Verify electronic employment eligibility verification system to check the work eligibility of new hires by comparing information on the ‘Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification’ to government databases.

E-Verify is voluntary except for employers with contracts containing the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) clause. States with laws for E-Verify use include Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.

ESR Helps Employers Avoid Hiring Illegal Workers

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check firm – is also a Designated E-Verify Employer Agent that helps employers with E-Verify and Form I-9 compliance in order to avoid fines in immigration cases for unlawfully employing illegal workers. For more information about ESR, please visit www.esrcheck.com. Visit ESR on social media at FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

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