Owner of Overland Park Hotel Sentenced to Prison For Employing Undocumented Workers
KANSAS CITY, KAN. - The owner of an Overland Park hotel was sentenced Monday to 27 months in federal prison for employing undocumented workers, who were paid less than other employees, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said. Last month, the defendant’s wife was sentenced to 21 months in the same case.
“I hope Kansas business owners are listening,” said Grissom. “You can go to prison for knowingly employing undocumented workers. Violating federal law is not a good business strategy.”
Munir Ahmad Chaudary, 53, and his wife, Rhonda R. Bridge, 42, both of Overland Park, Kan., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to harbor undocumented aliens for financial gain. In their pleas, they admitted employing undocumented workers at two hotels they owned: A Clarion Hotel at 7000 W. 108th in Overland Park, and a Clarion Hotel at 11828 NW Plaza Circle in Kansas City, Mo.
Chaudary and Bridge lowered their hotels’ operating costs and put themselves at a competitive advantage by not paying Social Security, Workers Compensation and unemployment insurance for the undocumented workers.
“The Chaudarys sought to game the system and gain an unfair business advantage over their legitimate competitors by hiring illegal aliens at cut-rate wages,” said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of HSI Chicago. “Homeland Security Investigations will continue to work with our federal, state, and local partners to keep the playing field level for all American business owners.”
“Employers who are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act must pay minimum wages and overtime premiums to their employees. They must not be allowed to evade these provisions by hiring undocumented workers and paying them less than the statute requires,” said Ricky Robinson, Acting District Director of the Kansas City District Office of the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor. “We will continue to enforce the FLSA without regard to whether an employee is documented or undocumented. Under the FLSA, the Department (or an employee) seeks back pay for hours an employee has actually worked, under laws that require payment for such work.”
According to court records, the investigation began in December 2011 when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Kansas Department of Revenue (KDOR) received information that the owners of the hotels were employing foreign nationals who were not lawfully present in the United States. In June 2012, an undercover agent posing as an undocumented worker got a job at the Overland Park Hotel. He was hired even though he told his employers he was not authorized to work in the United States.
In 2011 and 2012 the defendants filed false and fraudulent Quarterly Wage Reports and Unemployment Tax Returns with the Kansas Department of Labor in which they under-reported the number of employees at the Overland Park hotel, the amount of total wages paid and the amount of unemployment taxes due.
Chaudary is the final defendant to be sentenced in the case. Judith Vanzant, a hotel manager, and Syed Naqvi, a Pakistani native who worked as a desk clerk, already were sentenced.
The government also is seeking forfeiture of the proceeds of the crime. The judge will take up that issue at a later time.
Grissom commended Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Kansas Department of Revenue (KDOR), the Overland Park Police Department, the U.S. Department of Labor and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson for their work on the case.