The owners of a Kansas roofing company are charged with harboring and exploiting illegal immigrants, according to an indictment released Tuesday.
Tommy Frank Keaton and Graziano Cornolo were both charged with 17 federal indictments as owners of Century Roofing. The roofing company is believed have harbored and manipulated illegal immigrants by forcing them to obey orders and pay kickbacks. The owners allegedly threatened to turn the workers into immigration services if they didn’t comply.
“Unlawful business practices alleged in the indictment paint a picture of undocumented workers being manipulated by employers who played on their vulnerabilities,” U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said in a statement. “Particularly their fear of being caught and deported from the United States.”
Century Roofing employee Alberto Diaz-Hernandez was also charged for being involved in the illegal immigrant scheme. All three men pleaded not guilty during a hearing Tuesday, according to The Associated Press. Immigration and Customs Enforcement worked with Homeland Security Investigations and various local law enforcement agencies in its investigation.
“This joint operation reflects our commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to bring human traffickers to justice,” Homeland Security Special Agent James Gibbons said in a statement. “We are resolute in our efforts to not only arrest human traffickers, but also to rescue the human trafficking victims.”
The illegal immigrants were threatened with being fired, turned in or even have their trucks and equipment taken away. The owners also threatened workers with deportation if they sought work elsewhere or failed to meet deadlines. The federal charges date back to 2009 when the scheme first began.
Keaton and Cornolo could get up to 20 years in federal prison and $250,000 in fines for labor trafficking. They could get additional years in prison and fines for the other charges. They were arrested June 14 after a short search in the Kansas City metro area.
There are 11.3 million illegal immigrants in the country as of 2014 with roughly half coming from Mexico, according to The Pew Research Center. The number of illegal immigrants has leveled off since reaching its peak in 2007.
Century Roofing did not respond to a request for comment by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
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