The owners of a Kansas City, Kan., roofing company have been charged in federal court with hiring undocumented workers and forcing them to pay kickbacks.
Federal prosecutors allege that the owners of Century Roofing threatened workers with deportation if they did not pay cash back to the company.
A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Tuesday accuses Tommy Frank Keaton, 70, of Shawnee; Graziano Cornolo, 55, of Lenexa; and Alberto Diaz-Hernandez, 33, a citizen of Mexico, with multiple violations of federal forced labor and immigration laws.
Prosecutors said the owners of the company used unlawful means to enrich themselves at the expense of their workers.
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“Unlawful business practices alleged in the indictment paint a picture of undocumented workers being manipulated by employers who played on their vulnerabilities — particularly their fear of being caught and deported from the United States,” Tom Beall, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Kansas, said in a written statement.
According to the indictment, Century’s owners sought to gain a competitive edge over other companies by primarily hiring undocumented workers and paying them in cash.
The charges allege that roofing crew leaders were threatened with being fired or reported to immigration officials if they did not pay cash kickbacks.
They also were threatened with deportation if they did not meet deadlines for completing jobs, according to the indictment.
Charges filed against the defendants include conspiracy to obtain forced labor, benefiting from forced labor, conspiracy to transport undocumented workers, harboring an undocumented worker and encouraging undocumented workers to reside in the United States.
The most serious charges carry a penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison.
Keaton, Cornolo and Diaz-Hernandez were in custody Tuesday.
“This joint operation reflects our commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to bring to justice to human traffickers,” James Gibbons, acting special agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations in Chicago, said in a written statement.