Claiming ignorance, Verizon tolerated illegal alien work force through a subcontractor

"One worker told agents B&B paid him $100 per day for a 12-hour shift minus $60 a week for housing and utilities, according to records. Some said they were put up in a house off Oceana Boulevard in Virginia Beach."

From: PilotOnline.com (11-31-07)
Officials with both Smith and Verizon said in May that they knew nothing of B&B’s hiring of illegal immigrants and said they would be investigating.

The court records say that Smith and Verizon employees were frequently on the work sites when the undocumented immigrants were on the job. Some of the workers told authorities that B&B, Ivy Smith and Verizon never asked them for green cards, identifications, social security numbers or any proof that they were legally in the country. Only one of the 14 spoke English.

An Ivy Smith official did not respond to inquiries from The Virginian-Pilot this afternoon.

A spokesman for Verizon said policy changes were made in an attempt to ensure that illegal immigrants are not employed by contractors or subcontractors. Independent audits are done of employee records of any firm hired by Verizon or its contractors, said the spokesman, Harry Mitchell.

“We have zero tolerance for this,” Mitchell said. “We’ve taken steps that we hope will mitigate this issue greatly.”

ICE agents said in court papers that the Butterys have been employing illegal immigrants since at least 2003 and that even after Robert Buttery Sr. was arrested, he tried to get one of the workers out of jail and back on the job. The company reported sales in 2006 of $120,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Metcalfe said in court that authorities have been having trouble locating the Butterys. They apparently do not have a permanent office and work out of their vehicles, he said. The pair was arrested at a local hotel.

The Midland address is the home of Robert Buttery Sr.’s sister, Betty Jean Buttery, who is listed in the court records as part of a conspiracy and a B&B Cable corporate officer. All the company vehicles, including the one that was stopped in May, are registered in her name.

U.S. Magistrate James E. Bradberry had strong words for the Butterys at today's court appearance.

“Now look, the two of you listen to me carefully,” the judge scolded. “You are in deep doo-doo.”

The Butterys said they did not understand the charges against them and asked for lawyers to be appointed. They said they could not afford to hire their own.
Yes they had the illegal aliens, which only one of whom spoke a word of English, living in a house provided by the employers, Verizon, of course had no knowledge of what was going on. Thats just great.

From PilotOnline.com (12-08-07)

A Virginia couple entered guilty pleas in U.S. District Court today on charges they recruited and housed undocumented immigrants to work for their company, B&B Cable Co.

The plea agreement was reached between federal prosecutors and Robert Ray Buttery Sr., 52, and his wife, Betty Jean Buttery, 55, who both live in Midland in Fauquier County. They and a third family member, Robert Raymond Buttery Jr., 22, were arrested this fall after a lengthy investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents stemming from a State Police traffic stop on Interstate 264 in Virginia Beach this past spring.

Troopers stopped a white, 1997 Ford box truck, owned by B&B, on May 7 because its registration was expired and there was no inspection sticker displayed.

They found it was carrying 14 illegal immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala. It was being driven by one of them, an El Salvadorian who did not have a driver’s license. Troopers called in ICE agents. The day after the workers were detained, Robert Buttery Jr., contacted State Police to locate the 14 illegal alien employees, “whom he described as ‘my boys,’” according to the plea agreement.

B&B was hired by Ivy H. Smith Inc., a Greensboro, N.C.-based company which was a subcontractor for Fiber Technology Construction Inc., of Canton, Ga., that held a contract with Verizon Communications.

Officials with both Smith and Verizon said in May that they knew nothing of B&B’s hiring of illegal immigrants.

Neither company has been charged with any wrong doing.

A federal grand jury indicted the Butterys last month on charges of employing, recruiting and housing undocumented immigrants who they allegedly housed in hotels, motels and rental homes while driving them back and forth to work sites.

ICE agents said in court papers that the Butterys had been employing illegal immigrants since at least 2003 and that even after Robert Buttery Sr. was arrested, he tried to get one of the workers out of jail and back on the job.

According to the plea agreement, the illegal aliens generally spoke no English, “so the defendants provided them with written instruction cards in Spanish for laying cables and in English to hand to homeowners when questions arose on site.”

The cards were provided by Ivy H. Smith Inc., according to the plea agreement. The employees also received “damage prevention” training, given in Spanish, from Ivy H. Smith Inc.

Also in the plea agreement, the pair agreed that between 2000 and 2007 they did not file any tax returns or other information required to be filed for employees, individuals, or businesses on behalf of B&B Cable or any of its employees with the Internal revenue service. The company reported sales of $120,000 in 2006.

Robert Ray Buttery Sr. faces sentencing March 7; Betty Jean Buttery is scheduled to be sentenced March 10. They face a possible prison sentence and the government is seeking $1.5 million in alleged proceeds from their business. Prosecutors said Friday that Robert Buttery Jr. is scheduled to plead guilty on Monday.

While there is no further information regarding this case, we can only hope they got a prison term that meets the maximum extent of law. Also to note, Verizon has changed it's subcontractor policy, according to Workplace Immigration report (11-19-07)
Verizon Reinforces Requirements for Contractors
"We will not condone or tolerate the use of illegal labor, and those who violate the law won't work on our fiber project," Harry J. Mitchell, Verizon director of media relations for the Mid-Atlantic region, told BNA Nov. 13.

"When a situation like this arises, as it did this spring in Virginia Beach, we act decisively," Mitchell said. "In this case, our prime contractor Ivy H. Smith investigated the incident and terminated the subcontractor," he said.

Verizon's contracts with prime contractors require the contractors--and their employees and subcontractors--to abide by all federal, state and local labor and construction laws, including immigration laws, Mitchell said.

Verizon already had in place a rigorous competitive bidding and evaluation process for prime contractors, Mitchell said. After this incident, Verizon implemented a plan to reinforce the requirements, he said.

The plan requires prime contractors to file valid paperwork for all employees assigned to a Verizon project and hire an independent auditor to audit employment records annually and certify to Verizon throughout the year that new employees assigned to Verizon projects have valid paperwork, Mitchell said. Prime contractors must also certify to Verizon that all of their subcontractors meet the same requirements, he said.
Wow, now maybe they will even have to pay an area standard wage.

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