OFFICERS OF BELLINGHAM ENGINE COMPANY PLEAD GUILTY TO FELONY IMMIGRATION VIOLATIONS
Pair Admits they Allowed Company to Submit False Immigration Forms on Employees
Two Corporate Directors of Yamato Engine Specialists in Bellingham, Washington pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to aiding and abetting the use of a false statement on immigration forms. The pair, SHAFIQUE AMIRALI DHANANI, 46, and his sister, SHIRIN DHANANI MAKALAI, 52, each pleaded guilty to a federal felony, admitting that they knew workers at their family owned company submitted false names and social security numbers on federal I-9 forms used to verify workers’ status in the United States. Under the terms of the plea agreement, both defendants must be sentenced to a probationary sentence or they can withdraw from the plea agreement. According to the language in the plea agreement, the third defendant, the corporation, YAMATO ENGINE SPECIALISTS 1990, LTD, is expected to pay a significant fine in connection with the case. YAMATO has not yet entered a plea, and is charged by information with encouraging and inducing illegal aliens to reside in the United States. Sentencing of DHANANI and MAKALAI, will be scheduled before U.S. District Judge James L. Robart on a later date.
“This is Western Washington’s first successful prosecution of an employer for knowingly hiring undocumented workers,” said United States Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan. “This case should put employers on notice that if they knowingly employ those who lack legal status, they face prosecution for federal felonies.”
“Today’s guilty pleas demonstrate the commitment of ICE special agents to investigating leads, uncovering the facts, and holding criminal employers accountable,” said John Morton, assistant secretary of homeland security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “ICE will continue to investigate and find employers who flout our laws and hire illegal labor, in order to reduce the demand for illegal employment and protect employment opportunities for the nation's lawful workforce.”
According to DHANANI’s plea agreement, he serves as the Production Manager at Yamato, and has been a Director of the company since the 1990s. DHANANI admits that he knew of an employee, Jorge Collado-Sanchez who was employed by Yamato in 2003, who left the company on January 1, 2006, following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audit of the company’s I-9 forms in late 2005. DHANANI admits he knew Collado-Sanchez returned to his job at Yamato in June 2006, completing the I-9 paperwork with documents that did not belong to him. DHANANI admits he knew an administrative employee of Yamato accepted the false documents and used them to satisfy the I-9 requirement that the company had checked the potential employees legal status to work in the U.S. Collado-Sanchez remained employed until the ICE workplace enforcement action on February 24, 2009.
In her plea agreement MAKALAI states that she has been a director of Yamato since 2002, and is responsible for supervising the manager of the Human Resources Department. MAKALAI admits that in November 2002, Ricardo Burgos-Quintanar completed an I-9 form in the name of Jose L. Garcia-Pallares. The employee used a Resident Alien Card (“Green Card”) that appeared genuine. Five years later, in 2007, Burgos-Quintanar completed a second I-9 as Ricardo Burgos-Quintanar claiming he was a citizen or national of the United States, and indicating that he was starting work for Yamato in March 2007. MAKALAI admits that she knew the Human Resources Department had engaged in a practice of using false information to complete the I-9 forms and she took no steps to prevent or alter this practice.
In all, twenty-eight workers were found to be illegal aliens unlawfully employed at Yamato. None have been prosecuted criminally. All have been put in removal proceedings, but allowed to remain in the United States as potential witnesses pending the conclusion of the case against Yamato.
The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Don Reno. Mr. Reno is an attorney with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement specially designated to prosecute immigration cases in federal court.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.