Immigration mattersU.S. seeks the forfeiture of a business employing illegal aliens

Published 10 May 2010

In the past, U.S. federal authorities have taken action against companies that have knowingly hired illegal immigrants; punishments included fines and jail time; now, in an unusual step, federal authorities are seeking the forfeiture of an operating San Diego-area bakery

Owners arrested for hiring illegal immigrants // Source:

Last December we reported that, for the first time in Arizona, a company employing illegal immigrants had been punished for violating the law; the company had its business license suspended for ten days and was put on a 3-year probation; the punishment was symbolic because the company was already out of business (“A first: Arizona firm punished under hiring law,” 22 December 2009 HSNW).

The U.S. federal authorities’ campaign against businesses employing illegal aliens has nothing symbolic about it, as the feds have taken the unusual step of seeking the forfeiture of an actual business that is suspected of employing illegal aliens. The French Gourmet, a San Diego-area bakery, its president, and a manager have been charged with conspiring to engage in a pattern or practice of hiring and continuing to employee unauthorized workers (a misdemeanor) in addition to fourteen felony counts, including making false statements and shielding undocumented alien employees from detection.

According to the indictment, the owner and managers certified on the firm’s Employment Verification Forms (I-9) that the documents they examined appeared to be genuine, and to the best of the their knowledge, the employees listed on the I-9 were eligible to work in the United States. They then place the workers on the company’s payroll and paid them by paycheck until they received “No Match” letters from the Social Security Administration (SSA) advising that the Social Security numbers being used by the employees did not match the names of the rightful owners of those numbers. The indictment goes on to allege that after receiving the “no match” letters, the company conspired to pay the undocumented employees in cash until the workers produced a new set of employment documents with different Social Security numbers.

In May 2008 ICE agents executed a federal search warrant at the French Gourmet and arrested eighteen undocumented workers. During the searches, ICE agents seized employee and payroll records as evidence in the criminal case.


Employers have a responsibility for maintaining the integrity of their workforce,” said Mike Carney, acting special agent in charge for ICE Office of Investigations in San Diego. “This indictment shows ICE’s commitment to holding businesses accountable when they repeatedly ignore immigration laws as it relates to their workforce. The goal of our enforcement effort is two-fold, first to reduce the demand for illegal employment and, second, to protect job opportunities for the nation’s lawful workforce.”

ICE has reported that in fiscal year 2009,