Immigration Enforcement

Prison time for hiring illegals

By Jim Hannah • jhannah@nky.com • July 21, 2008

COVINGTON – Longtime Fort Wright politician and business leader Jeff Wolnitzek was sentenced today to eight months in prison for using illegal immigrant labor at his commercial interior contracting company.

He and his Crescent Springs-based business, Spectrum Interiors, also will forfeit $2 million earned from the illegal scheme.

“I accept responsibility for my action,” Wolnitzek told the judge before the sentence was handed down, “and I’m very sorry this happened.”

Nothing more was said by Wolnitzek, who will report to prison at a yet-to-be-decided date.

Rejecting his request for a sentence of no jail time, U.S. District Judge David Bunning followed prosecutors’ recommendation. Wolnitzek also will have to serve two years on probation.

Bunning called Wolnitzek’s business practices “cheating” and said unscrupulous businessmen like him were contributing to the nation’s illegal immigrant problem.

The sentencing brought a standing-room only crowd of about 40 people to Bunning’s courtroom. It was a diverse group of people in support of Wolnitzek and business competitors who claimed he used illegal immigrants to undercut them when bidding on jobs.

Bunning received an inch-thick stack of letters from people like former Fort Wright Mayor Gene Weaver, Northern Kentucky developer Bill Butler and Messer construction company officials who vouched for Wolnitzek’s character.

When the conviction forced Wolnitzek from his council seat in Fort Wright, city leaders passed a resolution recognizing the many achievements of their former colleague.

The public knew Wolnitzek as a hard-working man dedicated to public service, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McBride said, but behind closed doors he was a cutthroat businessman who had no regard for the law.

Wolnitzek pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor aliens for commercial advantage or private financial gain, but the details of the charge were not unsealed until Monday.
Spectrum subcontracted with illegal immigrant Louis Garcia for as much as half of its labor force from August 2002 through November 2006, according to the plea agreement. Spectrum would provide Garcia’s employees with hats, goggles, identification cards and uniforms despite the fact many were illegal immigrants themselves.

The scheme fell apart in November 2005 when Garcia pleaded guilty to tax evasion and agreed to become an undercover informant for federal agents investigating Wolnitzek. He wore a wire during meeting where Wolnitzek agreed to continue to use Garcia’s illegal immigrant labor even after Garcia was jailed on the tax evasion charges.

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July 22, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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