News and Press Releases

BELLINGHAM ENGINE COMPANY, TWO OFFICERS SENTENCED FOR FELONY IMMIGRATION VIOLATIONS
Company Submitted False Immigration Forms on Employees

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 21, 2009

YAMATO ENGINE SPECIALISTS of Bellingham, Washington pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to Encouraging and Inducing an illegal alien to reside in the United States. Following the plea, the company and two company directors, SHAFIQUE AMIRALI DHANANI, 46, and his sister, SHIRIN DHANANI MAKALAI, 52, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge James L. Robart. Judge Robart ordered YAMATO ENGINE SPECIALISTS to pay a $100,000 fine. The company delivered a check for $50,000 to the court, and must pay the balance by the end of the year. In addition to the fine, the company has agreed to take out an ad in the Bellingham Herald advising the public of the impact the immigration violations have had on the company. At sentencing Judge Robert noted the "substantial publicity" the case had received, saying he hoped other employers would take note of the defendant's felony convictions and substantial fine.

“Today’s guilty plea is yet another example of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s commitment to ensuring that businesses are held accountable for their hiring practices,” said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE John Morton. “We will continue to focus our investigative resources on employers who knowingly hire an illegal workforce and ensure that jobs and opportunities are available for our nation’s lawful residents.”

Last month the two company directors, DHANANI and MAKALAI 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. Today both defendants were sentenced to one year of probation.

In the plea agreement submitted on behalf of the company, YAMATO admits that employee Jorge Collado-Sanchez was employed by YAMATO in 2003, and then 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. Collado-Sanchez then returned to his job at YAMATO in June 2006, completing the I-9 paperwork with documents that did not belong to him. 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 a sentencing memo outlining the defendants criminal conduct prosecutors noted that “Yamato is one of thousands of employers nationwide who have flaunted the requirements of the Immigration Reform and Control Act and the accompanying laws and regulations... prohibiting the employment of illegal aliens. These employers knowingly accept fraudulent documents sold on the street to illegal aliens...”

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. Today’s sentencing means the deportation actions will move forward.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The case was 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.

Return to Top

USAO Homepage
USAO Briefing Room
Justice 101
Community Outreach

Engaging in outreach in order to prevent crime, respond to community needs, and promote good citizenship.


Victim Witness Assistance

Making sure that victims of federal crimes are treated with compassion, fairness and respect


Project Safe Neighborhoods

Our nation-wide commitment to reducing gun crime in America


Oficinas de los Fiscales de Estados Unidos En Español