Officials: Illegal workers helped build Beech-Nut plant

ALBANY-A North Carolina company has agreed to pay a six figure fine to settle an investigation sparked by a tip the company transported “illegal aliens” to the Beech-Nut construction site in Montgomery County in 2009.

According to a press release from U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York Richard Hartunian, C.P. Buckner Steel Erection will pay $825,000 over two years to settle a probe of its employment of “illegal alien workers.” The settlement covers illegal hirings taking place prior to March 31, 2009. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has agreed not to pursue criminal charges against Buckner as part of the agreement.

According to the release, an investigation found C.P. Buckner Steel had employed workers at projects who were not eligible to work. The investigation began in January 2009, following a tip that C.P. Buckner Steel had transported illegal aliens from North Carolina to a Beech-Nut project in Montgomery County. On Jan. 22, 2009 and Feb. 18, 2009, Homeland Security Investigations arrested a total of nine C.P. Buckner Steel employees, including two supervisors, because they were unlawfully present in the United States.

According to the press release, six of the arrested employees were released, after which C.P. Buckner continued to employ them. After the first arrests, the employees moved from a hotel located within 1 mile of the project to one 30 miles away. The hotel switch was approved by C.P. Buckner Steel, the release said.

On Feb. 28, 2009 auditors from the New York State Department of Labor and the New York State Bureau of Criminal Investigation appeared unannounced at the project to interview employees. According to the news release, all but one employee, who was also not authorized to work, fled when investigators arrived.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the illegal employees then went to North Carolina where they continued working for Buckner.

In a statement, C.P. Buckner Steel said all of those involved were either terminated in 2009 or have since received legal work authorization.

“Buckner has cooperated with the [authorities] throughout the investigation and has agree to work with [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to further educate the construction and steel erection industry regarding the hiring of unauthorized workers,” reads the statement.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office claims in its news release that until April 2009 Buckner had failed to make “further inquiry regarding the work authorization status of those employees who had fled and other employees in its workforce who Buckner had sponsored [for] green cards.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office also stated Buckner has received repeated notices over multiple years from the Social Security Agency of “hundreds of irregularities in the social security numbers used for employment purposes by its workers.”

The settlement agreement, which remains in effect until July 10, 2016, requires Buckner to cooperate fully with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and other government agencies investigating the case and do the following:

  • Continue remedial hiring actions implemented after it learned about the investigation March 31, 2009.
  • Continue using the Department of Homeland Security’s “E-Verify” screening program for all new hires.
  • Verify the social security numbers of all Buckner employees.
  • Maintain an employee hotline to receive reports of any suspected violation of law by the company.