A labor contractor and four of his employees were indicted on federal charges for a scheme in which they supplied hundreds of undocumented workers to Pennsylvania mushroom farms and failed to file taxes -- having already defrauded the U.S. out of nearly $2 million, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
Miguel Morales, 48, of Quarryville -- who owns and operates Morales Contractor -- provided a contracted labor force to various mushroom farms in Chester County, PA, the first indictment says.
Morales housed some of the workers in 10 properties that he owns across Lancaster and Chester counties, and provided them with transportation to and from the farms -- all while charging them for both rent and transportation, Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said.
The indictment alleges that from at least 2018, Morales, Carrillo-Perez, Garcia-Ramirez, and Jose Morales conspired to transport these undocumented workers, who were illegally in the United States.
Morales is accused of hiring people regardless of their immigration status, and hired undocumented aliens who were not lawfully present in the United States, federal officials said. Further, he did not file Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statements, and failed to collect and pay over to the IRS employment taxes for his business.
Oscar Carrillo-Perez, 35, of West Grove, Santiago Garcia-Ramirez, 44, of Landenberg, and Jose Morales, 39, of Quarryville, allegedly participated in the conspiracy by driving vehicles registered to Miguel Morales to transport the undocumented workers between their residences and the farms, where they worked for Morales Contractor, Williams said.
The three also handed out paychecks to the workers, and drove them to La Latina Intemational Market -- also operated by Morales -- in Oxford, PA, where they could cash their paychecks and wire money to foreign countries, the DOJ said.
The remaining counts of the indictment charge all of the defendants with transporting undocumented people across state lines on various dates.
A second indictment alleges that Miguel Morales and Lawrence Urena, 49, of Spring Lake, North Carolina, conspired to obstruct the IRS in its lawful assessment and collection of unemployment taxes.
According to this indictment, Urena operated Urena Accounting, which was a tax preparation business that handled accounting work for Morales, including weekly payroll.
For calendar year 2020, Morales paid wages totaling more than $3.64 million to employees, many of whom earned $10 per hour, Williams said.
This required Morales to withhold and pay the IRS approximately $921,968 in employment taxes.
However, Morales allegedly did not file any employment taxes to the IRS in 2020. Further, the indictment also alleges that from 2015 to 2018, Morales paid the IRS only a fraction of what he owed, resulting in a tax loss of approximately $2 million.
“According to the Indictment, Miguel Morales and the other defendants knew they were employing undocumented workers as part of a years-long scheme to avoid paying their fair share of taxes to the United States,” Williams said.
“This case is about exploiting those less fortunate out of sheer greed. This type of fraud will not be tolerated in this District, and these defendants will now have to answer to these charges.”
If convicted, the defendants could face the following possible sentences:
- Miguel Morales faces a maximum possible sentence of 250 years of in prison, and a $8,750,000 fine;
- Lawrence Urena faces a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison, and a $250,000 fine;
- Carrillo-Perez faces a maximum possible sentence of 65 years of in prison, a $1,750,000 fine;
- Garcia-Ramirez faces a maximum possible sentence of 85 years in prison, and a$2,250,000 fine; and
- Jose Morales faces a maximum possible sentence of 15 years of imprisonment, $500,000 and a period of supervised release of 3 years.
The case was investigated by Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, and the Chester County Detectives; and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Karen Grigsby.
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