Immigration Enforcement

Prison time for hiring illegals

By Jim Hannah • • 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.


July 22, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

NC Voice Challenges county commissioners to solve problem of illegal alien contractors

Staff Writer-Alamance News
December 20, 2007

An argument over unreturned phone calls has driven a wedge between county officials who oppose illegal immigration and a like minded activist group with concerns about businesses that it says operate in the county illegally.

NC Voice, which formed over the summer in response to the immigration debate, has denounced the county for its alleged unresponsiveness to a request that it recently made for a meeting with the county commissioners.

The group, which is based in Swepsonville, approached the commissioners two weeks ago to announce that its members have dug up numerous violations of tax and licensure rules, which the group says a number of businesses are committing right under the noses of county officials.

Mike Kelley, a spokesman for NC Voice, asked the commissioners for a private meeting so he could show them evidence of violations that he said his group has uncovered. Several of the commissioners said at the meeting that they’d gladly meet with the group, although Kelley insists that he hasn’t heard back from anyone on the county’s governing board.

“It implies that they’re sandbagging us,” Kelley explained in an interview. “I think two weeks was quite enough time to give them an opportunity to contact us.”

Kelley has posted a stinging indictment of the county on his organization’s website. His post is especially critical of Alamance County’s manager, David I. Smith, who apparently declined to arrange a meeting between Kelley and the commissioners.

Kelley’s online rebuke hasn’t won him much sympathy from one commissioner who has been particularly outspoken on the issue of the illegal immigration.

Commissioner Tim Sutton excoriated the group’s spokesman for attack on the county as well as his expectation that the commissioners would meet with him before he disclosed any of the evidence that NC Voice has collected.

“We’re playing childish games here,” Sutton said in an interview. “He’s trying to portray us as not being forthright enough. I don’t think he understands the process.”

Kelley was more optimistic about the county’s interest two weeks ago when he appeared at a commissioners’ meeting with his request. Kelley told the commissioners that his group had found numerous businesses that weren’t licensed or properly listed for tax purposes. He told them that he had already brought these findings to the attention of federal officials, who advised him to share the information with local government leaders and return to them if nothing happened within 7 to 10 days.

Kelley’s request got an immediate response from commissioner Bill Lashley, who publicly announced that he wanted to hear what the group had to say. Kelley said he was later approached by commissioner Ann Vaughan, who also seemed interested in his information. The commissioners instructed Kelley to give his contact information to Alamance County’s manager, David I. Smith, who Kelley said was supposed to get back with him and set up a meeting.

Kelley said that he didn’t hear from the county manager for more than a week, and when Smith finally did call him, he declined to let the group’s spokesman meet with the commissioners in private. Kelley said he was informed that the commissioners couldn’t see him behind closed doors because it would violate the state’s Open Meetings Law.

The group’s spokesman added that the county manager was skeptical the group’s information was even within the county’s jurisdiction.

“He said it was a municipal matter,” Kelley said in an interview. “It just seems like an endless circle with everyone pointing at everyone else, and they’re not doing anything. So, we’re closing the loop.”

Kelley said that the county manager told him he’d share his contact information with the commissioners, who were welcome to speak with him if they wanted. The group’s spokesman said that he never heard from anyone on the county’s governing board. He added that he tried to contact the commissioners himself but never got past their answering machines. He acknowledged that he didn’t bother to leave any messages for the commissioners.

Smith couldn’t be reached for a comment before press time this week. But Sutton said he has already discussed NC Voice’s concerns with the county manager, and he said that Smith couldn’t respond to Kelley’s concerns because Kelley wouldn’t reveal any specifics about the information his group has collected.

“We’ve asked for that information repeatedly, and he did not provide it,” the commissioner said. “My advise would be to give this information to Clyde Albright, the assistant county attorney, and see if there’s anything he can do.”

Sutton said that he asked to see the group’s information long before Kelley approached the commissioners two weeks ago. He added that he and Kelley spoke shortly after NC Voice formed over the summer, although he said that he and the group’s spokesman have since had a falling out. Sutton acknowledged that he never called Kelley after Smith gave the resident’s contact information to the commissioners.

Kelley said that he is reluctant to distribute this information too widely because it includes serious allegations, which he and the group’s other members are still trying to corroborate.

Kelley said that NC Voice has evidence that about 70 businesses are operating without privilege licenses or tax listings and some even lack personal tax listings in Alamance County. He added that some of these businesses have nothing to do with illegal immigrants, although he added that others appear to serve or belong to people who are in this country illegally.

Kelley declined to provide any details about these businesses to The Alamance News. He said that much of this data was obtained over the phone from local government offices, and he added that he and the group’s other members are now trying to validate that the reports are, in fact, accurate. He said that the information will be made public as soon as the vetting is over.

Kelley said that he’d like to provide this information to the commissioners in an open meeting but said he’s uncomfortable releasing the names of the companies at this time. Even so, he said that he’d still like to get a response from someone within the county government.

“We’re not attacking the commissioners on this issue,” the group’s spokesman said; “we just want to be heard as citizens of the county.”

As most folks familiar with this type situation are already aware, when confronted in one locality with potential discovery and arrest, the perpetrators simply pick up and move to a new community, stick a new magnetic sign on the truck, print up a few business cards and they are back in business! We did not want to simply send our problems to our neighbors, we wanted to solve them. The information I was given growing up led me to believe that was why we elected leadership in the first place, but as Mr. Sutton so eloquently stated, “I don’t think he (me) understands the process”.

Alamance County officials are very proud of their 287g program, and rightly so. Believing however that the 287g program is an end-all do-all is a fallacy; the truth is that you have to arrest before you can identify and deport. We were hoping that tax evasion and fraud were grounds for arrest, but It’s starting to look like those laws only apply to lawful citizens.

I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, “If that were me doing that I’d have been arrested long ago!” One businessman told me he was late filing a tax form on his business because it was apparently lost in the mail and he almost got arrested and closed down. Don’t guess I need to tell you how mad he is over this, and I imagine the city and county officials will be getting a little feedback from him and a few others.

I’m a little confused about Commissioner Sutton being quoted as having asked for the information repeatedly but that I did not provide it. By his own admission he has not even spoken to me since August, and we didn’t even have the information collected at that time. I suppose he may have solicited it from another group member, but they were all advised to keep the information confidential until such time as we received a reply from the Feds. We didn’t want to interfere with any investigation they may have begun, and frankly it seemed pretty obvious no one in local government was motivated to action in spite of TV coverage, a large group of protesters, William Gheen, and Ron Woodard shouting at them from the Courthouse steps on a Saturday afternoon in August!

By the way, that was the bone of contention that Mr. Sutton referred to as a “falling out”. I’ll show him more courtesy than he offered in his last interview and forego any direct quotes at this time, but I assure you he was more polite to the Burlington Police Chief recently than he was to me when he found out ALIPAC would be represented at the August Rally.

I’ll also say that I have been severely criticized for “ruffling some feathers” locally, but I though it a courtesy to “ruffle” them now, rather than watch them “plucked” later. We have a majority on the Board of Commissioners coming up for re-election in 2008 and I think it a disservice to their distinguished record to be shooed away from dealing with this thorny issue by Mr. Sutton or Mr. Smith. I still hope to hear from some of them in order to move forward on this and other issues, and my understanding is that there are a few other citizens organizing locally as well with some questions of their own.

All the citizens of Alamance County deserve the support of their government, and we can’t all squeeze into gated communities, West Burlington, or the growing Mebane metropolitan area as our smaller bedroom communities become less clean, less safe, and less marketable. Hard times require hard choices, and I think most working folks recognize that hard times are upon us. Let’s all agree that there is a growing problem, and put our heads together to solve it. 

December 22, 2007 Posted by | alamance, nc voice, north carolina | , , , , , | Leave a comment