How an employer fills out a one page I-9 form could result in Homeland Security's seizure of a business. Small business owners and large corporations now have reason to dread the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ramp up of its I-9 administrative inspections which come with administrative subpoenas that ask for payroll and other government agency records.
While employers are required to verify the identity and work eligibility of all employees, including U.S. citizens, on Form I-9, they also have the duty to refuse to employ a person whose authorization and/or identity documents are unacceptable.
Informer tips and related worksite investigations throughout the United States have provided ICE with information regarding questionable employment practices of thousands of employers. In addition to administrative civil fines, targeted employers also faced criminal charges with potential seizure and forfeiture of company and personal assets. Companies are in federal courts across the United States facing felony criminal charges with potential prison terms, fines and forfeiture of assets.
Many criminal acts covered under the U.S. Code are subject to seizure and forfeiture of all property which has been or is currently being used in the commission of the violation. This includes harboring of unauthorized aliens, money laundering, visa and document fraud, and the knowing hire of 10 or more unauthorized aliens. The property that is subject to seizure and forfeiture includes boats, vehicles, aircraft, bank accounts and other traceable assets. In one case, an employer's Harley-Davidson motorcycle was forfeited.
On April 15, 2010, an indictment was filed against The French Gourmet, Inc., its owner and manager, for making and using false attestations, conspiracy, and a number of other charges for employment violations. The complaint alleged that The French Gourmet’s owner and manager, in conspiracy, knew that the employees were unauthorized to work in the U.S, and falsely attested on the I-9 that they had examined the documents presented, and the documents appeared to be genuine and that the employees were eligible to work in the U.S. The French Gourmet, Inc. allegedly received “no-match” letters from the Social Security Administration informing the employer that the social security numbers used on the I-9 certified by the employer for the employees were not valid.
The New York Times reported that the restaurant-bakery’s owner, Michel Malecot, “was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of illegally hiring 12 undocumented immigrants and, in what prosecutors portray as a brazen deception, continuing to employ them after learning that they were in the country illegally. He pleaded not guilty. Now, if convicted, he faces the possibility of forfeiture of the restaurant building, along with an adjacent rental property, Froggy’s Bar. Legal experts say it would be an exceptionally stiff punishment, but one that could be a sign of things to come for an industry that is one of the nation’s largest employers of immigrants.”