ICE fines 17 Massachusetts companies for hiring unlawful employees

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency also known as ICE, said Wednesday that it has collectively fined 17 Massachusetts employers nearly $350,000 over the last year for hiring unlawful employees.

Among the companies fined were Northern Pelagic Group LLC of New Bedford, which was fined $151,200; Samar Company Inc. of Stoughton, which was fined $33,786.22; and Quality Workforce Inc. of Brockton, which was fined $26,881.25; ICE said in a press release.

Attempts to reach those companies for comment were not immediately successful.

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For the last three years, ICE’s investigative arm, Homeland Security Investigations, has pursued a strategy of auditing documents employers are required to keep on their employees as a way to reduce the demand for illegal employees. The fines announced Wednesday were as a result of audits of Massachusetts employers conducted during the federal government’s fiscal 2012, which ended Sept. 30.

The total of $349,619.54 of ICE fines for 17 Bay State employers in fiscal 2012 compares with the total of $175,420.25 in fines for 11 Massachusetts companies during fiscal 2011, ICE said.

An ICE spokesman said an increased number of auditors performing investigations was largely responsible for the year-to-year increase in fines.

Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of the local office for Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, commented on the fiscal 2012 fines in a statement.

“These settlements serve as a reminder to employers that HSI will continue to hold them accountable for hiring and maintaining a legal and compliant workforce,” Foucart said. “We encourage employers to take the employment verification process seriously, as we expand the number of audits we are conducting throughout Massachusetts each year. My agency will continue to focus its attention on employers that are knowingly employing illegal workers and will continue to target specific industries and businesses known or alleged to hire illegals.”

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