U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah Collects More than $10 Million in Civil and Criminal Actions in Fiscal Year 2022
SALT LAKE CITY – Grand America Hotels and Resorts will forfeit nearly $2 million for violations relating to the hiring of undocumented workers, including illegal aliens, according to a non-prosecution agreement signed last week by the corporation, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The Wyoming corporation owns, through various subsidiaries, hotel and resort properties in Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, California, and Idaho.
According to a Statement of Facts included as an exhibit in the agreement, an administrative audit was initiated by HSI at The Grand America Hotel in September 2010. The audit was completed a year later. The audit revealed 133 undocumented individuals were working at The Grand America. All of the identified employees were hired before The Grand America began participating in the E-verify program. The hotel was issued a warning notice and the undocumented workers were terminated.
Prior to the conclusion of the audit, without the knowledge or consent of top executives at the Hotel, lower level and mid-level managers created two nominee temporary employment agencies for the purpose of rehiring some of the terminated employees at The Grand America Hotel. Within days of the HSI warning, approximately 30 of the undocumented workers returned to work at The Grand America Hotel through these two temporary agencies. In October 2011, a third nominee temporary agency was formed to allow about a dozen more undocumented workers to work at The Grand America Hotel. In total, 43 undocumented workers returned to their jobs at the hotel through these three temporary agencies. Most returned using different names and utilizing fraudulent documents.
Search warrants were executed in September 2012 at The Grand America Hotel, the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City, and a company affiliated with Grand America Hotels and Resorts that held electronic records belonging to the company, as well as two residences in the Salt Lake valley which served as the centers of operation for the three temporary agencies.
According to the Statement of Facts in the non-prosecution agreement, after the search warrants were executed, owners and senior executives of Grand America Hotels and Resorts became aware of the use of the temporary agencies and cooperated with HSI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to uncover the full extent of the illegal conduct. Grand America also conducted an internal investigation and disclosed its findings to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and HSI.
As a result of the investigation, The Grand America Hotel terminated three operational managers at The Grand America Hotel and one operational manager at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City and reprimanded two others. The undocumented workers hired through the outside agencies were not allowed to continue to work at the hotel.
Grand America Hotel and Resorts will not be prosecuted in exchange for its continued full cooperation with HSI's investigation and action the corporation is taking to correct its hiring practices. However, because of the alleged criminal conduct attributable to its employees who were acting on behalf of Grand America, Grand America Hotels and Resorts has agreed to forfeit $1,950,000 to the Department of Homeland Security. The amount of the forfeiture was determined by looking at the total number of illegal aliens employed over the entire period of the investigation and determining the benefit gained by the corporation as a result of employing undocumented workers during that period.
The corporation also is required to take substantial remedial measures, which are expected to cost around $500,000 to implement. Those measures include adopting new policies to comply with immigration law; incorporating immigration law compliance clauses into labor service contracts; re-training human resources employees on I-9 procedures; and agreeing to continue to use the E-Verify employment eligibility verification website. In addition, the company has agreed to retain immigration and corporate counsel to advise the company regarding hiring and immigration procedures. Grand America will continue to cooperate with HSI on future immigration-based compliance programs to ensure that the company continues to maintain a lawful workforce.
Acting U.S. Attorney for Utah Carlie Christensen said the non-prosecution agreement reached with Grand America Hotels and Resorts represents a negotiated agreement not to prosecute the corporation. “We don’t believe there is evidence of corporate involvement in the efforts to set up the temporary employment agencies and the rehiring of the undocumented workers. Those individuals who participated in criminal activity will be prosecuted for their conduct,” Christensen said. “The forfeited sum of $1,950,000 is an appropriate resolution for the corporate entity given the violations committed by employees acting on its behalf.”
"All industries, regardless of size, location and type are expected to comply with the law," said Kumar Kibble, special agent in charge of HSI Denver, which oversees Utah investigations. "As this significant settlement demonstrates, there are real consequences for businesses that employ an illegal workforce."
This settlement comes as a result of an I-9 employee verification form audit and subsequent criminal investigation into unlawful hiring practices conducted by HSI. Employers are required by the Immigration Reform and Control Act to maintain for inspection original I-9 forms for all current employees. In the case of former employees, retention of forms is required for a period of at least three years from the date of hire or for one-year after the employee is no longer employed, whichever is longer. HSI conducts these audits in an effort to protect employment opportunities for the nation's lawful workforce and to target businesses that knowingly employ unauthorized workers.