A Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, tree removal company was fined $95 million after pleading guilty before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to violating several federal immigration laws due to the company’s practice of hiring and rehiring undocumented immigrants. Federal prosecutors described the fine as the largest ever for an immigration-related case.
As part of its plea, the company admitted to employing undocumented immigrants whom company management knew were ineligible to work in the United States. Company contracts with utilities such as PP&L and federal, state, and local governments, to remove brush, vegetation, and overgrown trees from electric, gas, and cable lines across the United States.
According to court records, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) conducted a random Form I-9 audit in 2009, which revealed that 100 of the company’s 30,000 employees were ineligible to work in the United States. While the company initially fired the 100 undocumented employees following the audit, they later rehired many of them, at the direction of a regional manager, accepting fake identification documents such as permanent resident and Social Security cards.
In 2014, DHS conducted a second random Form I-9 worksite inspection, which revealed that the company’s hiring system allowed management to remain “willfully blind” to the continued corporate practice of hiring undocumented immigrants with false and fraudulent identification papers. Prosecutors indicted both the company and the regional manager, charging numerous immigration law violations.
While the company’s legal troubles may be resolved with the $95 Million fine, the regional manager, who has pleaded guilty to all counts in the indictment, is scheduled for sentencing this month.
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