The Shipley Do-Nut company and its president today received a stern slap as both pleaded guilty in federal court to charges related to employing and housing illegal immigrants.
Lawrence Shipley III, who took the helm of his family’s Houston-based company in 2005, pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of continuing to employ undocumented immigrants. He was sentenced to 6 months of probation and was ordered to pay a $6,000 fine, U.S. Attorney Donald DeGabrielle announced today.
The company, DeGabrielle said, has agreed to plead guilty to a felony conspiracy charge, serve one year of probation and revise its immigration compliance program.
“I would hope that other businesses that are currently employing people here illegally,” DeGabrielle said, “they would look to this and say that we are serious about not only enforcing our efforts at the border … [but] that those who are serving as a magnet to draw people here realize that they are literally risking their liberty as well.”
The charges arise from a federal investigation that began in January and in April netted 27 arrests of undocumented immigrants employed by Shipley and living in housing provided by the company. In addition to the probation and fines, the Shipley company has agreed pay $1.334 million to the government in lieu of forfeiting the homes it provided for its illegal workers.
Three current and former Shipley supervisors and managers, Christopher Halsey, Jimmy Rivera and Julian Garcia, have also been charged and are scheduled to appear in court in early September, DeGabrielle said.
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After the April arrests, immigration enforcement came under fire for seemingly only punishing the workers and not sanctioning their employers.
“Obviously we can’t and haven’t stopped every company from hiring people illegally, and perhaps in the past we haven’t done as good a job addressing this problem,” said DeGabrielle, “but we are serious about doing something about it when evidence comes to our knowledge. So hopefully the business community will take notice that there are consequences.”
When asked if fines and probation send a strong enough message, DeGabrielle said, “I think a felony conviction for a company, the stigma attached to the convictions … [and] a $1.33 million forfeiture is not insignificant and are consequences. Perhaps you can say there are more serious crimes in the relative scheme of things, and I’m not saying that maybe somebody would look at this as the cost of doing business; if they want to, that’s fine. We can’t put a company in jail, we can only put people in jail and in the right case we will be doing that.”
-- Chris Vogel