Durham men sentenced for recruiting, employing illegal immigrants
Posted November 3, 2011
New Bern, N.C. — Two Durham men have been sentenced to federal prison for bringing immigrants illegally from Mexico for their home construction business, authorities said Thursday.
Juan Antonio Lopez-Ponce was sentenced Monday to 37 months in prison and a $45,000 fine, and Jose Alfredo Lopez-Ponce was sentenced to 26 months in prison and a $25,000 fine. They also agreed to forfeit a total of $250,000 to the government.
The brothers, who came into the U.S. illegally themselves in the 1980s but eventually gained citizenship, pleaded guilty in April to conspiring to conceal, harbor and shield illegal aliens.
As the owners of J&A Framers Carpentry Inc., they managed about a dozen eight-person framing crews and expanded rapidly during the Triangle's housing boom during the 1990s and early 2000s. They notified people in their hometown that they needed workers and loaned people money to cover the cost of being smuggled into the U.S., authorities said. The brothers also rented rooms to the illegal workers.
Prosecutors alleged that the brothers issued fraudulent tax forms to each framing crew and paid paltry wages to the workers in order to cover their tracks and boost their profitability. The operation ran from 2004 until last December, authorities said.