Suit ac­cuses Mas­sachusetts firm of elab­o­rate scheme to bilk il­le­gals

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jerry Seper

A Mas­sachusetts leather and cloth­ing man­u­fac­turer tar­geted in a U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment raid in March has been ac­cused in a law­suit of con­spir­ing to avoid over­time pay by mak­ing it ap­pear that its work­ers — many of whom were il­le­gal aliens — were be­ing paid by two sep­a­rate com­pa­nies.

Brought by Greater Bos­ton Le­gal Ser­vices on be­half of cur­rent and for­mer em­ploy­ees of Michael Bianco Inc. (MBI) of New Bedford, Mass., the suit said the work­ers were paid with two sep­a­rate checks to give the ap­pear­ance that none of them ex­ceeded the 40-hour work­week that would re­quire over time pay­ments.

The suit said the checks came from Michael Bianco for day shifts and Front Line De­fense for evening shifts, al­though it de­scribed the sec­ond com­pany as a bo­gus firm.

“It was clearly a de­lib­er­ately cre­ated fiction,” said Au­drey Richard­son, a lawyer with Greater Bos­ton Le­gal Ser­vices.

In March, ICE said in an af­fi­davit the work­ers re­ceived no over­time pay de­spite work­ing day shifts for the Bianco com­pany and nights for Front Line De­fense. It said they per­formed the same jobs at the same work sta­tions, but used dif­fer­ent time clocks and re­ceived sep­a­rate pay­checks.

The af­fi­davit said the two com­pa­nies op­er­ated within the same plant and that Front Line De­fense ap­peared to ex­ist “solely for in­ter­nal ac­count­ing pur­poses at MBI.”

Hun­dreds of fed­eral agents and state and lo­cal po­lice, led by ICE, de­scended on MBI in March with search and ar­rests war­rants, round­ing up 361 il­le­gal aliens from among the com­pany’s 500 em­ploy­ees.

Crim­i­nal com­plaints ac­cused MBI owner Francesco In­so­lia, 50; pay­roll man­ager Ana Figueroa, 40; plant man­ager Dilia Costa, 55; and of­fice man­ager Glo­ria Melo, 41, of con­spir­ing to en­cour­age or in­duce il­le­gal aliens to re­side in the United States and con­spir­ing to hire il­le­gal aliens.

Luis Tor­res, 45, also was charged in a sep­a­rate com­plaint of pro­vid­ing phony iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pa­pers to work­ers at the MBI fac­tory.

The com­plaint said Mr. Inso- lia in­ten­tion­ally sought out il­le­gal aliens be­cause “they were more des­per­ate to find em­ploy­ment and are thus more likely to en­dure se­vere work­place con­di­tions he has im­posed.”

It de­scr ibed some of the work­place con­di­tions as dock­ing pay by 15 min­utes for ev­ery minute an em­ployee was late; fin­ing em­ploy­ees $20 for spend­ing more than two min­utes in the re­stroom; fin­ing em­ploy­ees $20 for leav­ing the work area be­fore the break bell sounds; and fin­ing em­ploy­ees $20 for talk­ing while work­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to af­fi­davits in the case, MBI held De­fense De­part­ment con­tracts worth $10 mil­lion be­tween 2001 and 2003 to man­u­fac­ture prod­ucts for the U.S. mil­i­tary and re­ceived an­other de­fense con­tract in 2004 worth $82 mil­lion. As a re­sult of those con­tracts, MBI in­creased its work force from 85 in 2003 to more than 500.

The af­fi­davits said the com- pany knew that many em­ploy­ees had ob­tained fraud­u­lent Alien Reg­is­tra­tion Cards, com­monly known as “green cards,” and phony So­cial Se­cur ity cards. It also said MBI man­age­ment in­structed prospec­tive em­ploy­ees on how to ob­tain fraud­u­lent doc­u­ments.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Car­los Si­maj Morente (left) and Flor Chach worked at Michael Bianco Inc., where em­ploy­ees were docked pay for talk­ing while work­ing or spend­ing more than two min­utes in the bath­room.

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