Asplundh Tree Experts, pleaded guilty and was fined $95 million for unlawfully employing aliens.
Family-owned Asplundh is based in the Philadelphia suburb of Willow Grove, PA. Its orange trucks crews are a common sight in Delaware.
The family-owned company has been involved in recent hurricane clean-up efforts.
Asplundh management remained willfully blind while lower level managers hired and rehired employees they knew to be ineligible to work in the United States, acting United States Attorney Louis D. Lappen announced.
Following the guilty plea hearing in Philadelphia, John R. Padova sentenced the company to pay a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $80 million and abide by an Administrative Compliance Agreement, as set forth by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Philadelphia.
Asplundh issued the following statement on its website in response to the federal investigation.
Asplundh will also pay an additional $15 million to satisfy civil claims arising out of their failure to comply with immigration law.
The $95 million recovery represents the largest payment ever levied in an immigration case.
According to court documents, from 2010 until December 2014, Asplundh, hired and rehired employees in many areas in the United States accepting identification documents it knew to be false and fraudulent, prosecutors stated.
A six-year HSI audit and investigation revealed that the company decentralized its hiring so Sponsors (the highest levels of management) could remain willfully blind while supervisors and general foremen (2nd and 3rd level supervisors) hired ineligible workers, including unauthorized aliens, in the field.
Hiring was by word of mouth referrals rather than through any systematic application process. This manner of hiring enabled Supervisors and General Foremen to hire a workforce that was readily available and at their disposal.
This decentralized model tacitly perpetuated fraudulent hiring practices that, in turn, maximized productivity and profit, according to prosecutors.
With a motivated workforce that included unauthorized aliens willing to be relocated and respond to weather-related events around the nation, Asplundh had crews which were easily mobilized that enabled them to dominate the market. Asplundh provided all the incentives to managers to skirt immigration law, prosecutors added.
“Today marks the end of a lengthy investigation by ICE Homeland Security Investigations into hiring violations committed by the highest levels of Asplundh’s organization,” said ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan. “Today’s judgment sends a strong, clear message to employers who scheme to hire and retain a workforce of illegal immigrants: we will find you and hold you accountable. Violators who manipulate hiring laws are a pull factor for illegal immigration, and we will continue to take action to remove this magnet.”
The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Philadelphia and is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Josh A. Davison and Assistant United States Attorney L.C. Wright.