Special Reports

Kingpins live the high life on workers’ efforts

In all labor trafficking investigations, prosecutors follow the money.

Records obtained by The Kansas City Star show that between 2005 and 2008, the alleged Giant Labor Solutions conspiracy deposited $1.23 million in checks from area hotels as payment for housekeeping services.

That included almost $700,000 from the Westin Crown Center and almost $200,000 from two Hilton properties, the Doubletree and the Embassy Suites on the Plaza.

Spokesmen for the hotels declined to comment on the case, citing the pending investigation.

But in an interview with The Star, GLS defendant Ilkham Fazilov said that at least one of his co-defendants sent money home by purchasing automobiles and having them shipped back to Uzbekistan.

Fazilov, however, contends he never made more than $2,000 a month while working as a hotel housekeeper for Giant Labor. Fazilov denied any knowledge of human trafficking, but investigators have claimed that he kept more than $85,000 from the scheme.

Though many of the defendants charged in the local conspiracy lived modestly in apartments scattered throughout the metro area, defendants in other labor trafficking conspiracies that fed off H-2B visas have lived much higher.

Though only a middle manager in a Virginia-based visa-fraud scheme, Gabor Teglasi had plenty of cash to indulge his love for toys. When he pleaded guilty last spring, Teglasi agreed to give up a 2008 Nissan Titan pickup, a 2004 BMW X3 automobile, a 2008 Can Am motorcycle, two boats and a pair of personal watercraft.

But Jekaterina Cerednicenko, a bookkeeper and girlfriend of Virginia conspiracy kingpin Viktar Krus, may have set the standard for excess.

According to investigators, Cerednicenko transferred more than $1 million to her European accounts while living in a $700,000 home in the United States. Even her doghouse had an independent air-conditioning and heating system.

“Workers often did not have heating and/or air conditioning in the housing provided by (Cerednicenko) and Viktar Krus,” prosecutors observed.

Krus, Cerednicenko and Teglasi each were convicted earlier this year of conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal aliens and are now serving prison terms of 87, 78 and 50 months, respectively.

And last week, authorities in Brazil announced they had arrested 11 people there for operating a $52 million H-2B visa fraud scheme since 2002.

According to the U.S. consulate in Sao Paulo, the scheme promised U.S. jobs to at least 4,500 Brazilians, demanding payments of up to $15,000 for each visa.

The investigation opened in 2004 when U.S. fraud prevention experts in Sao Paulo detected irregularities with visa applications. Brazilian authorities joined the investigation four years later.

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