Case Closed: IFCO Senior Managers Plead Guilty to Employing Illegals, Violating Workplace Laws
Five IFCO seniors managers plead guilty to charges involving the hiring and employing of illegal aliens. Cases brought by 2006 raids are finally brought to a close.
Date Posted: 10/1/2011
Right before a trial was set to start in Houston, Texas, five former senior managers of IFCO Systems, the nation’s largest pallet recycler, pleaded guilty to hiring and employing unauthorized aliens at IFCO plants nationwide between January 2003 and April 2006. These charges resulted from the workforce raids conducted by federal authorities in 2006.
The plea agreement confirms that IFCO senior managers from 2003 to 2006 “helped to hire and employ a manual workforce in the IFCO plants that was overwhelmingly Hispanic and largely undocumented.”
Entering guilty pleas were: Charles Davidson, 48, of San Antonio; Christopher Tiesman, 43, of Spring, Texas; Haskell “Buddy” Ross, 42, of Lakeland, Fla.; Kenneth Gines, Jr., 53, of Spring, Texas; and Wendy Mudra, 36, of Tampa, Fla. They all held strategic positions in human resources, finance, or new plant development for IFCO.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) stated, “The defendants established and maintained practices and policies at IFCO that resulted in the hiring and continued employment of unauthorized aliens. The defendants knew and consciously avoided facts and circumstances showing that, as a result of the practices and policies which they helped establish and continue, unauthorized aliens were being hired and employed at IFCO.”
This outcome brings the legal showdown to an end for IFCO and its former employees. In December 2008, IFCO reached a record corporate settlement with the government to avoid prosecution. But there was a potential for more damaging information to come out and other IFCO employees to be implicated if the senior managers went to trial. It all depended on what came forth at trial. Those questions will not be answered now that the IFCO managers pleaded guilty.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tina Sciocchetti, said, “We were expecting a trial, but the case got resolved. There are no other pending indictments.”
Sentencing will take place soon for these five senior managers. The five defendants face a maximum prison sentence of six months and a fine of $3,000 for each unauthorized alien who was part of the pattern and practice of illegal hiring. The eleven defendants who pled guilty in NY to similar charges involving hiring illegal aliens at IFCO facilities are set to be sentenced in December.
The IFCO case rocked the pallet industry in 2006 when it first started because it involved the largest pallet recycler in the country. And the cases revolved around a reality that has become all too common in the industry over the last 10 years – the growing impact of foreign laborers and minorities who may or may not be legally authorized to work in this country. Pallet companies were scared that they would be targeted and would need to become document experts to keep from ending up in the newspapers just like IFCO did. The government made it difficult because it warned employers not to discriminate in trying to comply with workplace authorization laws. This put companies between two legal extremes that could be difficult to know how to navigate.
All of IFCO’s legal mess started when ICE and other government authorities raided 45 IFCO facilities across the country. They detained 1,181 IFCO employees, who were present in the United States illegally and unauthorized to work in the United States, which constituted the majority of the total workforce employed at those 45 plants.
Despite all its legal challenges, IFCO has been able to stay afloat and even managed to get itself in a position where Brambles, the parent company of CHEP, bought it late last year.
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