Two Honduran Nationals Indicted for Scheme to Facilitate Employment of Undocumented Immigrants in the Construction Industry

Yesterday, an attorney for the US government announced that it had charged two Honduran nationals with crimes related to immigration. The government charged Fanny Melina Zelaya-Mendez with three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The government also charged Roger Omar Zelaya-Mendez with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of unlawfully re-entering the US after being deported.

According to the government, the Zelaya-Mendezes established shell companies that provided construction companies with workers who were undocumented and unauthorized to work in the US, and thereby assisted in the unlawful employment of these immigrants.

The construction firms obtained and paid these workers through the Zelaya-Mendezes’ companies, thereby avoiding certain federal and state responsibilities related to hiring, immigration-law compliance, payroll taxes, and workers’ compensation insurance.

In the state relevant to the Zelaya-Mendezes’ case, Florida, state law requires any company that engages in construction work to secure and maintain workers’ compensation insurance.

According to the government, the Zelaya-Mendezes applied for workers’ compensation insurance policies to cover estimated payrolls of between $85,800 and $120,800, and then “rented” those insurance policies to the construction companies that employed hundreds of workers.

An insurance company issued those policies for annual premiums ranging from $16,787 to $27,581. According to the government, a workers’ compensation policy purchased for the amount of the payroll checks cashed by the Zelaya-Mendezes, roughly $27 million, would have cost about $6.7 million. Also, according to the government, the Zelaya-Mendezes kept 4% of each payroll check as the “rental” fee for the workers’ compensation insurance policies.