The Star Democrat

Capt. Phip’s Seafood sentenced for visa fraud


SECRETARY — U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander Tuesday sentenced Phillip J. “Jamie” Harrington III, age 50, of Dorchester County, to one year probation, to pay a $10,000 fine, a $5,000 special assessment and to perform 100 hours of community service for unlawful employment of undocument­ed workers.

Hollander sentenced Capt. Phip’s Seafood Inc. to three years probation and to pay a $240,000 fine for visa fraud related to the employment of temporary workers employed at Harrington companies. In addition, Hollander ordered Harrington and Captain Phip’s

seafood to participat­e in a verificati­on program for their employees and were debarred from participat­ing in the H-2B visa program. The fines were paid Tuesday.

The sentences were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigat­ions Baltimore; Special Agent in Charge Andrew Wroblewski of the Washington Field Office of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service; and Acting Special Agent in Charge Troy Springer of the Washington Regional Office, U.S. Department of Labor — Office of Inspector General.

Philip J. Harrington Jr. was Capt. Phip’s owner, president and sole director until his death on Feb. 13, 2018. Since March 6, 2019, Capt. Phip’s has been owned and operated by Philip Harrington’s, son, Jamie Harrington. The primary business of Capt. Phip’s is the production and distributi­on of ice as well as the processing of seafood. For more than a decade, Capt. Phip’s has participat­ed in the H-2B work visa program through which it has obtained temporary foreign workers to fill seasonal positions.

According to the company’s guilty plea, from 2013 through 2018, Captain Phip’s Seafood Inc. routinely sought prevailing wage determinat­ions for multiple job descriptio­ns, and then filed petitions for H-2B visas for only the jobs with the lowest prevailing wage, regardless of the actual work duties of the employees. The H-2B Visa Program is a temporary non-agricultur­al worker program in which an employer may seek temporary authorizat­ion for foreign workers to legally enter and work in the U.S. To obtain an H-2B Visa, the U.S. Department of Labor must ensure the positions have been advertised to U.S.-based workers and assign the appropriat­e wage to be paid (“prevailing wage”) based on the job descriptio­n.

As stated in the plea agreement, Captain Phip’s willfully submitted false and inaccurate job descriptio­ns to obtain lower prevailing wages for its foreign workers. Capt. Phip’s omissions about the full scope of the job duties to be performed by its temporary foreign workers resulted in the DOL approving Capt. Phip’s to pay lower prevailing wage than it would have been authorized if Capt. Phip’s had provided truthful informatio­n.

For example, in 2016, Capt. Phip’s requested and received prevailing wage determinat­ions for three positions: ice conveyor operators with a prevailing wage of $12.51; oyster production workers with a prevailing wage of $16.96; and ice machine operators (ice production workers) with a prevailing wage of $11.10. Capt. Phip’s then filed a petition for ice production workers with the U.S. Citizenshi­p and Immigratio­n Services. The petition was approved and the Department of State issued 24 H-2B visas to nonimmigra­nt Mexican nationals authorizin­g them to work for Capt. Phip’s as ice production workers in the United States. Once the Mexican ice production workers entered the United States, Capt. Phip’s used these workers for jobs beyond ice production, including for oyster processing, as maintenanc­e workers, truck drivers and drivers’ assistants. Capt. Phip’s admits it intentiona­lly and falsely claimed that the foreign workers would only be engaged in ice production in order to pay them the lower prevailing wage. Had Capt. Phip’s truthfully filed for H-2B visas for many of these duties, these employees would have been entitled to a higher wage.

As stated in the company’s plea agreement, on Aug. 31, 2017, a USCIS officer and government agents conducted a site visit at Capt. Phip’s location in Secretary. At that time, Capt. Phip’s H-2B workers were authorized only to engage in oyster production work. During the site visit, three H-2B visa beneficiar­ies were interviewe­d through an interprete­r and indicated that their current duties involved ice packing duties rather than oyster production work.

A USCIS officer and agents also interviewe­d Phillip Harrington Jr., who signed all the H2-B visa petitions for Capt. Phip’s and his son, Jamie Harrington, who identified himself as the vice president of Capt. Phip’s, responsibl­e for “running the business,” to include the buying and selling of product, managing the levels of product, and hiring and/or firing. Jamie Harrington admitted that all of Capt. Phip’s H-2B workers were packing ice, and none of them were currently processing any oysters. The workers’ H-2B visas for 2017 only permitted them to work in oyster processing. Jamie Harrington admitted that Capt. Phip’s visa petitions should have been for workers for both ice and oyster processing.

During the Aug. 31, 2017 interview, Jaime Harrington said he was also the president of Easton Ice Company Inc. (“Easton Ice”). The principal office for Easton Ice is the same physical address as Capt. Phip’s premises in Secretary. A subsequent interview of a recipient of multiple H-2B visas filed by Capt. Phip’s including in 2017, when the H-2B workers were only authorized for oyster processing, revealed that their duties that season were to drive a truck and deliver ice. In September 2017, an agent observed this person driving a truck bearing the name “Easton Ice.” The agent also saw another Capt. Phip’s H-2B recipient delivering ice and riding in the truck. Easton Ice did not apply for H-2B visas in 2017, and workers with H-2B visas obtained through Capt. Phip’s were not authorized to work for Easton Ice Company. Jamie Harrington admitted Capt. Phip’s H-2B visa recipients were routinely directed to perform work for Easton Ice and other businesses controlled by Philip and Jamie Harrington.

On Aug. 9, 2018, government agents interviewe­d Jamie Harrington at Capt. Phip’s premises in Secretary. Jamie Harrington admitted the company was not in compliance with the requiremen­ts of the H-2B visa program and that some of Capt. Phip’s H-2B workers were driving trucks or performing other duties outside the scope of their visas, including performing work for other companies controlled by Philip and Jamie Harrington, including Easton Ice, Woodfield Ice Company Inc. (“Woodfield Ice”), as well as two Ocean City, Maryland, motels owned by members of the Harrington family. Agents pointed out to Jamie Harrington that if the H-2B applicatio­ns had been truthful about the location and job duties for workers at Woodfield Ice the prevailing wage would have been much higher because that business is in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

Roughly between 2013 and 2018, Capt. Phip’s filed petitions for H-2B visas for approximat­ely 142 nonimmigra­nt workers. Capt. Phip’s officers involved in the H-2B process were aware the nonimmigra­nt workers were intended to be employed to engage in work beyond the job descriptio­ns authorized by the workers’ visas. Capt. Phip’s realized unlawful benefits through the use of fraudulent­ly low prevailing wages between April 2013 to December 2018, although the exact amount cannot be determined, the Justice Dept. said. Capt. Phip’s has not participat­ed in the H-2B visa program since at least January 2019.

Jamie Harrington is also the owner and operator of multiple other businesses involved the production and distributi­on of ice as well as processing of seafood, rental machinery, housing developmen­t, oyster farming, and other ventures including: Easton

Ice; Woodfield Ice; PJH Oyster; Two Sons R.S. LLC; Philson Properties LLC; Two Sons C.P. LLC; P&N Farms; Atlantic Rental LLC; DMS Hurlock LLC; The Preserve at Wright’s Wharf Homeowners Associatio­n; and Super Transporte­r LLC. (together with Capt. Phip’s, the “Harrington Companies.”

Harrington admitted in his plea agreement that, beginning in 2013 and continuing through at least August 9, 2018, he engaged in a pattern and practice of hiring and employing workers without lawful immigratio­n status at the Harrington Companies. Most of the unauthoriz­ed workers were Mexican citizens and nationals. Some of the undocument­ed workers Jamie Harrington hired and employed entered the United States lawfully and overstayed their visas, others never had lawful status to be in the U.S. Analysis of payroll and other records shows about 89 undocument­ed workers were employed by the Harrington Companies between 2013 and 2018. Harrington continued to employ several of the workers even after he knew they had been placed into removal proceeding­s by immigratio­n officials because they did not have lawful status to be present or working in the U.S.

United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended HSI, DSS and DOL-OIG for their work in the investigat­ion and thanked the Baltimore District Office of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division for its assistance. Assistant U.S. Attorney Judson T. Mihok prosecuted the case.

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GOOGLE IMAGE Ca pt. Ph ip’s Sea food Inc. of Secreta ry h a s been sentenced, fined for visa fra ud.

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