Two Fence Company Execs Sentenced For Hiring Illegal Immigrants

The top two executives of a Southern California-based company that helped build a fence to keep illegal immigrants from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border were sentenced Wednesday to home confinement for hiring undocumented workers.

Golden State Fence Co., its founder and president, Melvin Kay, and the company's vice president, Michael McLaughlin, pleaded guilty Dec. 14 to hiring unauthorized alien workers over a six-year period between January 1999 and November 2005.

U.S. District Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz sentenced both Kay and McLaughlin to 180 days of home confinement with electronic monitoring and ordered each of them to perform 1,040 hours of community service as conditions of their three years on probation.

Kay was also fined $200,000 and McLaughlin $100,000.

The company was ordered to forfeit $4.7 million in proceeds from its unlawful practices.

"Companies that willfully flout our nation's hiring laws will pay the price for their illegal actions; in this case $4.7 million of the corporation's assets are being forfeited to the government," said Michael Carney, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Office of Investigations in San Diego.

"Knowingly hiring illegal aliens not only harms law-abiding businesses, it also exposes those companies that break the law to prosecution and financial penalties," he said.

Golden State is based in Riverside and has offices in Oceanside, Bakersfield/Santa Paula, Palmdale, Anaheim and Brawley.

In the late 1990s, Golden State was hired by the government to build more than one mile of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In July 1999, federal immigration officials inspected the company's Oceanside office and provided written notice that at least 15 employees were unauthorized alien workers, according to court documents.

In September 2004, immigration officials again determined that at least 49 Golden State employees at the Oceanside office were unauthorized aliens, court records indicate.

In August 2005, ICE agents inspected Golden State's Riverside office and found at least three of the employees who had been listed in a 1999 notice as unauthorized alien workers.

Three months later, ICE agents served search warrants at the Oceanside and Riverside offices of Golden State, seizing evidence showing a pattern of hiring unauthorized alien workers, according to court documents.

In a company-issued statement late today, Executive Vice President Gary Hansen expressed relief that the judge chose probationary sentences rather than incarceration.

"Mel and Mike are hard-working men who have worked all their lives to make a better life for themselves and the people around them," Hansen said. "Their acts were not egregious, nor were they exploitive to the undocumented workers. We believe the court recognized the strength of their character when making its decision."

He said the company since December 2005 has voluntarily participated in the Basic Employment Verification Pilot program run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, through which newly hired employees are screened by the government to help verify their legal immigration status.

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