To conceal earnings made by allegedly exploiting undocumented workers, suspects in a large-scale racket busted by federal agents this week purchased at least four houses in the Las Vegas Valley, according to a federal complaint unsealed Thursday.
The documents spotlight an elaborate conspiracy allegedly perpetrated by a syndicate that mostly operated in Nebraska and Minnesota, which was described by a federal official as “one of the largest” for the investigative arm of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Federal prosecutors in Nebraska allege various workers were exploited through force, coercion and the threat of deportation, according to ICE. The alleged crimes took place between 2015 to July this year.
In a series of raids Wednesday at businesses — including agricultural facilities and a pair of restaurants, mostly in Nebraska — agents fractured the illegal operation by arresting at least 14 alleged conspirators and 133 undocumented workers, officials said. Warrants were also served at undisclosed locations.
More arrests might be forthcoming, officials said.
The houses identified in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, which could be subject to forfeiture, are located at 9505 Fox Forest Ave., near Fort Apache and Alexander roads; 2915 Carroll Street, near Civic Center Drive and Cheyenne Avenue; 4797 Judson Ave. and 2139 Bledsoe Lane, both near Lake Mead and Nellis boulevards, according to the complaint.
Also according to the court documents:
A group of suspects, some living in the U.S. illegally, operated a pair of contracting companies, which they used to “provide unlawful employment” to undocumented workers at businesses in Nebraska, Minnesota and Nevada.
Juan Pablo Sanchez Delgado would then take to Facebook to advertise jobs, providing his phone number. The group would not verify worker identities nor did it complete lawful paperwork, further facilitating fake identities for the workers. At least one suspect would transport the workers to their employment.
A pair of suspects would help workers overstay their temporary visas to work under false identities.
Some of the employers also were complicit, and charged. At least one would provide housing for the illegal workers.
Three suspects, immigrants themselves — one who’d been previously deported — would cash some of the illicitly earned checks. One of them, Anayancy Castro Hernandez, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, allegedly did this through employment with a bank.
Authorities identified more than $8 million in transactions made by the suspects from the financial institution that employed Hernandez.
At least one of the suspects, Sanchez Delgado, would withhold money from the workers’ paychecks, telling them that he would pay their federal taxes. Instead, that money was pocketed.
The suspects would monitor and advise each other of possible ICE activity to avoid detection of the workers. On Wednesday, the agents they feared finally appeared.
Special agent in charge Tracy Cormier told the Associated Press the operation was “one of the largest” in the investigative team’s 15-year history.
“I would say the amount of criminal warrants that are being executed will be one of the largest for HSI,” Cormier said. “I’m not aware of a bigger one.”