A Kansas grand jury has indicted a Lawrence business owner, his company and five other men for allegedly conspiring to use illegal immigration labor in the area construction business.
Businesses using immigrants in the country illegally gain an unfair business position, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said at a news conference Thursday.
By not making Social Security payments or providing workers’ compensation insurance, those firms make their bids more competitive, Grissom said.
“They would have an advantage over those employers who played by the rules,” Grissom said.
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Keith L. Countess, 55; his firm, Plaster Masters; Marcos Lane Stubbs, 44; Luis Felipe Guerrero-Guerrero, 26; Jose Felipe Hernandez-Calvillo, 39; Mauro Papalotzi, 34; and Isaac Gallegos, 35, were named in the 31-count indictment, which a Kansas City, Kan., grand jury returned in secret in December.
A federal judge unsealed the indictment Thursday morning after all parties were arrested, court records said.
In August 2011, Gallegos, who operated a cellphone store in Olathe, and Stubbs convinced Jose Torres-Garcia to work as a financial go-between between drywall subcontractors and construction crews primarily made up of immigrants here illegally, the indictment said.
Torres-Garcia, who has pleaded guilty in a related case, established a company and in turn deposited about $13.2 million in payments between October 2012 and October 2014, according to allegations in the indictment.
“The object of the conspiracy was to facilitate the use of undocumented alien labor so that the costs of drywall construction projects could be minimized to the financial benefit of the co-conspirators,” the indictment said.
Plaster Masters is a drywall subcontractor for commercial and residential projects around the Kansas City area, according to the indictment.
Torres-Garcia deposited about 250 Plaster Masters checks worth $735,000 to pay for drywall work.
Grissom said as many as 30 other people in the area drywall business are under investigation for using illegal immigrant labor, and more defendants are likely.
“Violating federal immigration law is not a good business strategy,” Grissom said.