Waste Management on Wednesday forfeited to the federal government $5.5 million in proceeds earned from employing undocumented workers at its Houston location, part of a broader agreement to remedy past immigration law violations there.
U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick said the Houston waste disposal and collection company has entered a non-prosecution agreement with the federal government following a five-year investigation that discovered at least 100 immigrants who had used fraudulent documentation or false identities to work at the company’s facility on Afton Street in northwest Houston. The investigation found that three managers there had engaged in illegal hiring practices between 2003 and 2012.
“This company hired manual laborers with little or no regard for their legal status for almost 10 years at their Afton location,” Patrick said in a statement. “Today, they paid a substantial price for that conduct.”
Waste Management is one of the nation’s largest waste disposal companies, serving nearly 20 million municipal, commercial, industrial and residential customers.
During the time of the investigation, Waste Management used various staffing agencies to provide contract laborers. Some of them were hired at the Afton location even though they weren’t authorized to work in the United States.
The company said in a statement that it conducted an internal probe upon learning of the illegal hiring scheme, fired the three managers who engaged in it and terminated its relationship with the temporary staffing agency involved. It said it has implemented stricter hiring measures to “ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.”
“There is now an enhanced compliance program in place designed to uncover undocumented workers who seek to be involved in our operations,” Waste Management said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2012 raided the Afton facility and discovered 16 people found to have been in the country illegally. Seven Salvadorans, six Hondurans, two Mexicans and one Nicaraguan were arrested.
A federal grand jury in 2014 indicted the three managers there for conspiring between 2008 and 2012 to encourage unlawful immigration through a scheme to employ undocumented immigrants as helpers on waste trucks. All were convicted.