FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEENRD
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2000(202) 514-2008
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
CONTRACT LABOR FIRM PLEADS GUILTY TO HIRING
UNAUTHORIZED ALIENS TO REMOVE ASBESTOS
WASHINGTON - Construction Personnel Inc., a contract labor firm, pleaded guilty today to a scheme of hiring unauthorized aliens from Mexico, Central and South America to remove asbestos, the Justice Department announced.
The company, its president, vice-president and other employees entered guilty pleas today in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga, Tenn., admitting to charges of conspiracy, money laundering, wire fraud, making false claims and violating immigration law.
From 1997 to February 2000, Chattanooga-based Construction Personnel, Inc. (CPI), formerly known as Service Management, Inc., hired unauthorized aliens from Mexico, Central and South America to work for contractors doing asbestos removal around the United States. Many of the unauthorized workers were not properly trained in asbestos removal, and many had false training and health certifications.
"Businesses must not use easily exploited individuals to do hard, dirty jobs that expose them to environmental risks," said Lois Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department's Environment Division. "We will continue to find and prosecute those who apparently think it is acceptable to ignore laws designed to protect employee health, simply because their employees cannot advocate for themselves."
In addition to its headquarters in Chattanooga, CPI also had offices in Denver and Baton Rouge. CPI's project manager in Denver taught asbestos abatement classes in Spanish. These classes, required by federal and state law to prepare workers to handle asbestos, were actually used to recruit workers who were known to be in the United States illegally.
During the classes, the instructor told workers to go along with circumvention of safety procedures, and to evade immigration officers by throwing asbestos at them before running away. As part of the investigation, undercover agents attended classes in asbestos abatement, and they obtained a court order to tap CPI's phones.
"Using undocumented immigrant workers who have not been properly trained to remove asbestos is a crime that cannot be tolerated," said Steven A. Herman, EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "This violation is especially offensive because it exposes those who are the most vulnerable to the dangers of pollution."
CPI president Roy Weaver and CPI vice president Ron Goodwin, both of Chattanooga, pled guilty today to conspiracy, wire fraud, and violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act. CPI employees Tina Voiles of Chattanooga and Maria Shumaker of Baton Rouge, La., pled guilty to misdemeanor violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act for their participation in the scheme.
CPI has entered guilty pleas in Denver and Baton Rouge, in addition to the guilty plea it entered today in Chattanooga. The company could be placed on up to five years probation and pay a fine of up to $4 million. CPI has agreed to give up claims to more than $300,000 seized by the United States.
Weaver and Goodwin, who directed the operations of CPI from its offices in Chattanooga, face up to ten years in prison and up to $750,000 in fines. Shumaker and Violes face up to one year in prison and up to $3,000 in fines for each unauthorized alien they assisted to remain unlawfully in the United States.
Sentencing is scheduled for April 20, 2001.
The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Offices in Denver, Chattanooga and Baton Rouge, coordinated by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice. The investigation of CPI involved special agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. EPA, the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI, the Social Security Administration, and the Colorado State Department of Health.