In keeping with the federal government’s practice of using increasingly severe fines and forfeitures to address violations of federal immigration law, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced that ABC Professional Services, Inc. (ABC) has agreed to forfeit $2 million to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and adhere to revised immigration compliance procedures in return for averting criminal prosecution. This announcement marks the seventh fine or forfeiture in excess of $100,00 levied by ICE-HSI in 2012 alone.

The investigation of ABC, a Houston-based company that provides right of way vegetation management for electric utilities in over a dozen states, began in Birmingham, Ala., following complaints that a significant number of the company’s employees were illegal aliens. Between 2008 and 2010, HSI agents carried out traffic stops on ABC crews and detained employees who were determined to be unlawfully present in the U.S., reviewed Forms I-9 and supporting documentation for approximately 2,500 ABC employees, and executed a federal search warrant on ABC’s headquarters in Houston during which additional personnel records and undocumented employees were seized.

According to the government’s investigation, illegal aliens made up approximately 30 percent of the company’s workforce as of the second quarter of 2009. In addition, ABC was found to have consistently violated federal immigration law by falsely attesting that new hires’ work authorization documents appeared genuine on the Form I-9 and failing to act on numerous “No Match” letters from the Social Security Administration (SSA). According to the terms of the company’s non-prosecution agreement with the government, ABC derived at least $2 million in revenue from services connected to its employment of illegal aliens.

In addition to the financial penalty of non-compliance, ABC has also terminated hundreds of undocumented workers and implemented significant changes to its immigration compliance procedures, including policies for the completion, retention and auditing of Forms I-9 and the treatment of SSA No Match letters. As of late 2008, the company has also enrolled in E-Verify to verify the employment eligibility of new hires.