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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Kansas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Indictment: Undocumented Workers Forced to Pay Kickbacks To KCK Roofing Company

KANSAS CITY, KAN. - A federal grand jury indictment unsealed here today alleges the owners of a Kansas City roofing company intimidated and coerced undocumented workers to pay kickbacks in violation of federal forced labor statutes, Acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said.

The indictment alleges the owners of Century Roofing knowingly employed undocumented workers, using coercion, extortion and threats to control workers and force them to pay kickbacks. Their goal was to make money by cutting Century Roofing’s costs and giving the company a competitive advantage.

“Unlawful business practices alleged in the indictment paint a picture of undocumented workers being manipulated by employers who played on their vulnerabilities – particularly their fear of being caught and deported from the United States,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall.

The indictment alleges the owners of Century Roofing at 6 South 59th St. Lane, Kansas City, Kan., used primarily undocumented workers who were paid in cash to complete commercial and residential roofing projects in the Kansas City metro area. The defendants are alleged to have used unlawful tactics to enrich themselves at the expense of workers including:

  • Threatening to fire roofing crew leaders unless they paid cash kickbacks to the defendants.

  • Threatening to cause roofing crew leaders to be fired from jobs working for other companies -- or to be unable to get jobs with other companies -- unless they paid kickbacks to the defendants.

  • Threatening to take back work trucks provided to crew leaders unless they paid kickbacks, even when crew leaders were making loan payments, and paying for insurance and maintenance on the trucks.

  • Threatening to report them to U.S. immigration authorities unless they paid kickbacks.

  • Threatening to report them to U.S. immigration authorities if crew leaders or crews worked for other roofing companies without the defendants’ approval.

  • Threatening to report them to U.S. immigration authorities if crew leaders or crews failed to complete work by deadlines set by the defendants.

  • Evicting or threatening to evict crew leaders from housing provided by defendants if they didn’t follow the defendants’ orders.

“This joint operation reflects our commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to bring to justice human traffickers,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge James Gibbons of HSI Chicago. “We are resolute in our efforts to not only arrest human traffickers, but also to rescue the victims.”

Defendants named in the indictment are in custody and scheduled to make an appearance this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan. The defendants are:

Tommy Frank Keaton, 70, Shawnee, Kan., co-owner of Canadian West, Inc., and RAM Metal Products, doing business as Century Roofing.

Graziano Cornolo, 55, Lenexa, Kan., co-owner of co-owner of Canadian West, Inc., and RAM Metal Products, doing business as Century Roofing.

Alberto Diaz-Hernandez, 33, a citizen of Mexico, and employee of Century Roofing.

       Charges in the indictment include:

  • Conspiracy to obtain forced labor and benefit from forced labor (count one).

  • Obtaining and attempting to obtain forced labor (counts 2,3 and 4)

  • Benefitting from forced labor (counts 5, 6 and 7)

  • Conspiracy to transport undocumented workers in the United States and encouraging undocumented aliens to remain in the United States for the purpose of financial gain (count eight)

  • Transporting an undocumented worker in the United States (counts nine and 10).

  • Harboring an undocumented worker (counts 11, 12 and 13)

  • Encouraging or inducing undocumented workers to reside in the United States (count 14-17)

Upon conviction the charges carry the following penalties:

  • Counts 1-7 labor trafficking: Up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.

  • Count 8: Up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

  • Counts 9-17 Transporting, encouraging undocumented workers to remain unlawfully in the United States: A maximum penalty of five years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

Investigating agencies include: Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Kansas Department of Revenue, the Clay County Sheriff’s Department, the Overland Park Police Department, the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Department, the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department, the Lenexa Police Department and the Shawnee Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson is prosecuting.keaton_indict_2_.pdf

In all cases, defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. The indictments merely contain allegations of criminal conduct.

Topic(s): 
Human Trafficking
Component(s): 
Updated June 14, 2016