Saturday, June 4, 2011

Businessmen face prison in illegal-worker conspiracy (Sun Herald)

Businessmen face prison in illegal-worker conspiracy
Friday, Jun. 03, 2011

GULFPORT -- Three Coast businessmen accepted plea agreements Friday in the same federal courthouse that inadvertently became part of a conspiracy to defraud the government through the hiring and harboring of illegal immigrant workers.

Randall Jacob “Randy” Weitzel, 50, of Gulfport, and Agustin Arcadia, 44, of Vancleave, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy that spanned eight years and included subcontract work at the Dan M. Russell Jr. United States Courthouse and Annex in Gulfport and Cody Hall, a technical-training building at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi.

Edwood S. “Woody” Brodtmann, 61, of Bay St. Louis, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor conspiracy charge of engaging in a pattern or practice of hiring and continuing to employ illegal immigrants.

All three remain free on bond to await sentencings Sept. 1.

Court documents show U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. has ordered Weitzel to forfeit $475,000 as part of his plea.

Weitzel and Arcadia each face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Brodtmann faces up to six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Federal charges were filed after Biloxi police discovered illegal immigrants living in a home Weitzel rented for them on Linden Drive in 2004. The discovery came after a neighbor went through trash outside the illegal immigrants’ homes and found paperwork that confirmed they were using false identities.

That initial probe found 12 illegal immigrants and led to surveillance of the businessmen, records show.

Weitzel was CEO of Artisan Textures of Biloxi, and operated several other companies including Procoat Inc., Procoat of LA Inc., ATI of LA Inc., and Artisan Construction Inc.

The government was prepared to prove Weitzel signed payroll listings knowing some of the employees were illegal immigrants, and he knew one of them was using an assumed name. Weitzel represented he withheld federal and state taxes from his employees’ paychecks when he did not, the government said.

Weitzel began using laborers who worked for shell companies operated by Arcadia after several illegal workers were arrested at Keesler. Arcadia ran J.A. Construction and AQ Stucco, which also employed illegal workers, the government said.

Brodtmann was Weitzel’s construction manager.

U.S. Attorney John M. Dowdy, in a written statement, said those who hire illegal workers “are doing nothing but hurting honest, hardworking Americans. Plain and simple, the message should be clear by now, we are going to continue aggressively investigating and prosecuting individuals and businesses who hire illegal aliens.”

Investigating agencies included Homeland Security Investigations, which is part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gaines Cleveland and Mike Hurst.

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