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Payment Method Request Prompts Federal Immigration Investigation

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Sometimes, when a local company tries to hire workers to catch chickens following federal hiring guidelines and laws,  they discover that potential employees want to know if they will be paid in cash. By paying in cash, criminals avoid filing paperwork like Form 1099 Income with the government.  This puts up a red flag that the employer might be hiring illegal aliens. If they are caught, events could unfold as they have in one case in the state of Arkansas.

On Friday, July 16, 2010, the company, Amador-Villenueva Contracting and J&A Loading, was charged with hiring and harboring 33 illegal immigrants plus laundering over $8 million in the U.S. District Court in Fort Smith, Arkansas, before Judge Robert T. Dawson. The owners of the business were the two oldest Amador-Villenueva brothers, Leoncio, 42 and Juan, 44.

The investigation was initiated after federal officials received information from “sources stating they were having a hard time hiring employees to catch chickens because the potential employees questioned whether they were going to get paid in cash as Amador Poultry pays its employees,” according to court documents.

The two brothers along with their younger brother Jose Manuel Amador-Villenueva, 39, had all previously plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy to harbor, transport and employ illegal aliens. Also prosecuted in the case was Leoncio’s wife, Kelle Stubbs-Amador.

Pleading guilty to a single count of money laundering, Lenico Amador-Villanueva received a sentence of 18 months of a recommended guideline of 30 to 37 months in prison with three years of supervised probation. Lenico along with his wife were also ordered to forfeit almost $640,000 in cash and assets worth an estimated $160,000 as part of a plea agreement.

Kelle Stubbs-Amador plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy to harbor, transport and employ illegal aliens and received a sentence of three years of supervised probation. Judge Dawson stated in response to his leniency in her sentencing to believing that her criminal activity was primarily a product of her spouse and also cited the couple’s five children, including twins born in June.

The youngest brother, Jose Manuel was sentenced to 12 months in prison plus three years of supervised probation and forfeiture of $73,000 as part of his plea agreement.

Juan Amador-Villenueva was the last to appear in court receiving 15 months in prison of a sentencing guideline of 24 to 30 months plus three years of supervised probation and forfeiture of about $800,000 in cash and assets including more than $600,000 in cash as part of his plea agreement.

The investigation conducted by Special Agent Scott Woodrow, of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement revealed that Jose Amador-Villanueva, had claimed to be a simple “field worker” but when he filed his 2008 tax return he reported income of $2 million and his occupation as “poultry contractor.” The $2 million reported were checks paid directly to him from OK Farms which were cashed, but never deposited in a financial institution.

Each of the defendants and their character witnesses were seeking leniency from Judge Dawson, however, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Triplett reported that at least 33 illegal aliens were harbored by the defendants, more than $8 million was laundered through their business and not one employee was supplied with a Form 1099 to report income.

Arizona and like minded states are trying to prevent crimes of this type and magnitude from happening within their borders. Crimes that are federally regulated but are not being enforced as the illegals migrate farther away from the U.S.-Mexico border.

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