Federal judge finds Villa Grove roofer guilty of visa fraud, harboring illegal workers

Federal judge finds Villa Grove roofer guilty of visa fraud, harboring illegal workers

SPRINGFIELD — A federal judge has convicted the owner of a Champaign-based roofing business of visa fraud and harboring people who were living in the U.S. illegally.

The guilty verdicts against Edwin Gire, 46, of Villa Grove and Grayson Enterprises returned Wednesday by U.S. District Court Judge Sue Myerscough mean that Gire will have to forfeit the building at 309 W. Hensley Road, C, where he harbored the people living here illegally.

He also faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the seven felony counts.

Myerscough set sentencing for June 4 in Springfield, almost two years from the time Gire was indicted and four years since government agents raided that Hensley Road building in search of evidence to support the findings that Myerscough ultimately made.

Gire waived his right to a jury trial on the charges and opted to have Myerscough hear his case. That was done over six days in November.

Prior to his bench trial, Gire and Grayson Enterprises, which was doing business as Gire Roofing, pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of unlawful employment of aliens, admitting Gire knowingly employed three Mexican nationals between 2008 and 2014. He faces six months in prison and a maximum fine of $3,000 for each unauthorized person employed.

In an 11-page ruling filed late Wednesday afternoon, Myerscough found Gire guilty of four counts of visa fraud. Grayson Enterprises was convicted of two of those counts.

Both defendants were convicted of three counts of harboring illegal aliens.

The visa-fraud counts alleged that between 2011 and 2014, Gire submitted four petitions to the Department of Homeland Security saying that he needed more workers than he could find in the U.S., and attached as evidence contracts for roofing jobs that were fake.

That allowed about 90 workers from Mexico, the Philippines and Peru to be improperly granted permission to work in the U.S., most of whom never reported to Gire to work.

"Testimony from numerous witnesses at trial established that the contracts detailed roofing jobs that the supposed customers of Gire Construction or Grayson Enterprises never agreed to and contained forged signatures of the alleged customers or their representatives," the ruling said.

"Gire submitted these fraudulent contracts in an attempt to justify the number of H-2B visa workers Gire Construction or Grayson Enterprises was requesting. ... Neither Gire Construction nor Grayson Enterprises would have received agency approval for any of the H-2B visa workers they requested if the contracts were known to be fraudulent."

The H-2B program allows U.S. employers who meet specific requirements to bring foreign nationals to the U.S. to fill temporary, non-agricultural jobs. The visas are typically issued to employers experiencing seasonal needs that can't be filled with U.S. labor.

Regarding the harboring counts, Myerscough found the government proved that the defendants "knew or recklessly disregarded the fact that the person named in the indictment was not lawfully in the United States."

Gire's attorney, Andrew Devooght of Chicago, argued that because Gire made no effort to conceal that three people were living illegally in the Hensley Road building owned by Grayson Enterprises, he did not harbor them.

"However, the Seventh Circuit has pointed out that harboring is distinct from concealment, as a person can harbor an illegal alien merely by providing the alien with housing for the purpose of making an employment opportunity with the person more attractive," the judge said.

She noted that the living arrangement was made to "make the aliens' employment as roofers for Grayson Enterprises attractive despite the fact that Grayson Enterprises was paying them less than the applicable prevailing wage."

"And because the three aliens lived in the building owned by Grayson Enterprises, they did not have to interact with landlords who might demand documentation regarding the aliens' immigration status or live on the streets, actions that would have made it more likely that the aliens would have interacted with law enforcement," she said.

Myerscough said Kimberly Young, the named owner of Grayson Enterprises who is also Gire's girlfriend and the mother of his child, was aware of the people living illegally in the Hensley Road building but did not tell Gire to make them leave.

"The aliens paid rent to live in the building owned by Grayson Enterprises, and, in part by charging the aliens rent, Grayson Enterprises was able to employ a workforce that made less than the applicable prevailing wage, thereby allowing the company to increase its profits and decrease its employment tax burdens," the judge said.

The government showing that the Hensley Road building was being used to harbor the people living here illegally makes it subject to forfeiture to the government, Myerscough said.

Gire was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene Miller of the Urbana division of the Central District. Working with him was Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Weir.

The convictions are the latest business-related misfortunes for the roofer, who has been in business in both Douglas and Champaign counties.

In 2011, Gire Roofing was fined $144,000 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for failing to provide fall protection for workers at jobs in Decatur, Champaign and Rantoul.

That same year, Gire and his then-wife filed for Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy.

Sections (2):News, Local

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Homeboy wrote on February 01, 2018 at 1:02 pm

So It’s illegal for Gire to harbor illegal aliens but some city’s think it’s ok for them to do it? Somebody explain that to me.

Illiniwek222 wrote on February 01, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Let's see...who could explain this to him? Saulie?? Batter up.

wykhb wrote on February 03, 2018 at 7:02 am

Apparently someone accidentally flushed.  Let me fill in:  Trumpsters, racists, nazi lickspittles, something about multiple personalities can't wait until the next election tick tock tick tock, evil laugh muahahahahaha..    

Does that answer every question ever asked?   Only thing I can't replicate are the neurosis symptoms, and that awful smell.

jparks wrote on February 03, 2018 at 9:02 pm

I like that.  

CallSaul wrote on February 04, 2018 at 8:02 pm

Your continuing pronounced obsession with toilets and their content is just weird...

...that you cannot resist the compunction to share it in public is just sad for you...

CallSaul wrote on February 04, 2018 at 8:02 pm

Your continuing obsession with me is weird and creepy...

chief21 wrote on February 01, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Small tip of the iceberg. Several local roofers, painters and landscapers also employ Illegal workers here in the CU area. Local contractors get around this by "sub contracting" work out and avoid any E verify problems. It's a major problem in the county......

wykhb wrote on February 03, 2018 at 7:02 am

In the county?    It has been a major problem in the COUNTRY for decades.  E-Verify was established in 1997 to address a long-time problem of this occurring.   Who was President in 1997...?    Oh. 

John Dixon wrote on February 01, 2018 at 2:02 pm

This corrupt employer is a perfect example of how illegal aliens take jobs from U.S. citizens and drive down wages in our own community.

map89 wrote on February 01, 2018 at 4:02 pm

I had heard rumors about this for several years and this is why when we took bids for our roof, we never considered Gire.  I would like to know where the rest of the illegal workers are if they never reported to work for Gire.  Just joined family or friends in the U.S.?  Is there a record of there whereabouts at all? 

BruckJr wrote on February 01, 2018 at 5:02 pm

I think several were at the State of the Union Speech.

wykhb wrote on February 03, 2018 at 7:02 am

SAVAGE.   But probably true.