Two Honduran Citizens Indicted For Scheme To Facilitate Employment Of Undocumented Aliens In Construction Industry And Evasion Of Payroll Taxes And Workers’ Compensation Laws
Jacksonville, Florida – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces the unsealing of an indictment charging Fanny Melina Zelaya-Mendez (39, Jacksonville) with three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and Roger Omar Zelaya-Mendez (33, Jacksonville) with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of illegally re-entering the United States after a prior deportation. Each wire fraud count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and the illegal re-entry count carries a maximum penalty of 2 years’ imprisonment. The indictment also notifies the defendants that the United States intends to seek forfeiture of $1,075,180, the approximate amount of proceeds obtained as a result of the wire fraud offenses, as well as $286,135 and a pick-up truck that were seized from Roger Omar Zelaya-Mendez on April 6, 2018.
According to the indictment, Fanny Melina and Roger Omar Zelaya-Mendez facilitated the employment of undocumented aliens living and working in the United States illegally, by establishing shell companies that provided workers to construction contractors and subcontractors. By obtaining and paying the workers through the defendants’ shell companies, the contractors and subcontractors avoided responsibility for ensuring that (1) the workers were legally authorized to work in the United States, (2) required state and federal payroll taxes were paid, and (3) adequate workers’ compensation insurance was provided.
Florida law requires any business that engages in construction work to secure and maintain workers’ compensation insurance. The Zelaya-Mendezes applied for workers’ compensation insurance policies to cover estimated payrolls of a set amount at the shell companies. They then “rented” those insurance policies to numerous construction contractors and subcontractors who employed hundreds of workers.
The contractors and subcontractors wrote payroll checks to defendants’ shell companies for the work performed by the undocumented alien workers. The Zelaya-Mendezes then cashed those payroll checks and distributed the cash to the construction crew leaders, who in turn paid the workers in cash. The defendants kept 4% of the amount of each payroll check as a “rental” fee for the workers’ compensation insurance policies.
The Zelaya-Mendezes cashed payroll checks totaling $26,979,514, and their “rental fees” totaled $1,075,180. Had a workers’ compensation policy been purchased for a payroll of $26,979,514, the policy would have cost $6,683,481. The policies that the defendants purchased and then “rented” out were for estimated payrolls of between $85,800 and $120,800, and the insurance company issued those policies for annual premiums ranging from $16,787 to $27,581.
Fanny Melina Zelaya-Mendez and Roger Omar Zelaya-Mendez are Honduran citizens who are illegally present in the United States. Roger Omar Zelaya-Mendez was previously deported from this country on February 13, 2009, and on July 20, 2012.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Arnold B. Corsmeier.