Philadelphia tree-trimming company whose orange trucks are a familiar sight
in communities throughout the United States will pay a record fine after
pleading guilty in a scheme to employ thousands of people in the country
Expert Co. of Willow Grove, a utility contractor best known for pruning and
removing trees around power lines, pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal
criminal charge and was ordered to pay a total of $95 million. Prosecutors
called it the largest monetary penalty ever levied in an immigration case.
The U.S. attorney’s
office in Philadelphia said Asplundh employed thousands of unauthorized
workers between 2010 and 2014, its top management remaining “willfully
blind” while lower-level supervisors hired people they knew were in the
country illegally. In some cases, the supervisors rehired workers who’d
already been let go by the company due to their immigration status.
model tacitly perpetuated fraudulent hiring practices that, in turn,
maximized productivity and profit,” prosecutors said in a statement. “With a
motivated workforce, including unauthorized aliens willing to be relocated
and respond to weather-related events around the nation, Asplundh had crews
which were easily mobilized that enabled them to dominate the market.”
Asplundh is a
90-year-old, family-owned company that employs 30,000 workers in the U.S.,
Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The company, which holds many municipal,
state and federal contracts, said it has reformed its hiring practices.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement began auditing Asplundh in 2009 and
found that it employed unauthorized workers. Asplundh dismissed the workers,
but managers hired them back, accepting bogus driver’s licenses, Social
Security numbers, green cards and other fraudulent forms of identification,
according to court documents.
managers, including a vice president, already have pleaded guilty to felony
charges in the case.
The company said
that since learning of the federal investigation in 2015, it has hired
compliance specialists, implemented a photo ID system that includes facial
recognition software, investigated every complaint about unauthorized
workers and taken other steps to eliminate the “practices of the past.”
responsibility for the charges as outlined, and we apologize to our
customers, associates and all other stakeholders for what has occurred,”
Chairman and CEO Scott Asplundh said in a statement on the company’s