Asplundh Tree Expert Co. based out of Philadelphia has been ordered to pay $95 million after they plead guilty to hiring illegal aliens.
Judge John R. Padova ordered the wayward company to pay $80 million in criminal forfeiture and an additional $15 million in civil penalties for failing to follow immigration law.
The company has hired thousands of “unauthorized workers” between 2010 and 2014 wherein they knowingly used fraudulent documentation, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia.
According to The Associated Press, Asplundh is a 90-year-old, family-owned company that employs 30,000 workers in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The company, which holds many municipal, state and federal contracts, said it has reformed its hiring practices.
According to court documents, from 2010 until December 2014, Asplundh, an industry leader in tree trimming and brush clearance for power and gas lines, hired and rehired employees in many regions in the United States accepting identification documents it knew to be false and fraudulent. A six-year HSI audit and investigation revealed that the company decentralized its hiring so Sponsors (the highest levels of management) could remain willfully blind while Supervisors and General Foremen (2nd and 3rd level supervisors) hired ineligible workers, including unauthorized aliens, in the field.
Hiring was by word of mouth referrals rather than through any systematic application process. This manner of hiring enabled Supervisors and General Foremen to hire a workforce that was readily available and at their disposal.
“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,” said Acting United States Attorney Louis D. Lappen. “Today’s settlement and the compliance agreement makes it clear, that companies must play by the rules and treat everyone fairly.”
“Today marks the end of a lengthy investigation by ICE Homeland Security Investigations into hiring violations committed by the highest levels of Asplundh’s organization,” said ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan. “Today’s judgment sends a strong, clear message to employers who scheme to hire and retain a workforce of illegal immigrants: we will find you and hold you accountable. Violators who manipulate hiring laws are a pull factor for illegal immigration, and we will continue to take action to remove this magnet.”
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.