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Immigration fines cost 14 New England companies

Paperwork lax, US agency says

By Matt Rocheleau
Globe Correspondent / July 22, 2011

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Fourteen New England companies were fined a combined $285,000 during the past fiscal year for failing to document that their workers were in the country legally, federal authorities announced yesterday.

The fines followed audits by the US Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement of federal I-9 forms, paperwork that must be filled out by employees when they are hired to show they have legal authorization to work.

Eight of the cited companies were in Massachusetts, including Commercial Cleaning Service in Allston, which was fined $100,000, and masonry contractor D’Agostino Associates Inc. in Newton, fined $22,792.

The immigration agency said it also fined Andover Healthcare Inc. of Salisbury, All In One Insulation Inc. of West Boylston, Polcari Enterprises Inc. of Saugus, Seatrade International of New Bedford, Harvest Co-op Markets of Cambridge, and Collt Manufacturing Inc. of Millis. The amounts of those fines were not released.

Some of the companies were found to have “suspect documents,’’ said Bruce M. Foucart, head of investigations for ICE in New England.

“That means more than likely they had an illegal workforce,’’ Foucart said by phone yesterday. “By not having the proper paperwork, workers had to be let go.’’

Fine amounts were calculated based on the seriousness of violations, whether companies were cooperative, and whether there were multiple offenses, he said.

While none of the 14 companies appealed, some negotiated lesser fines; others agreed to pay the initial amount ordered.

A voice mail left yesterday afternoon at the Allston cleaning company was not returned.

The owner of D’Agostino Associates, Romeo D’Agostino, said his company was fined for not properly filling out paperwork.

“I didn’t dot my I’s and cross my T’s,’’ he said by phone. “. . . I don’t hire’’ illegal immigrants.

In 2006, the Globe reported that the company “had 19 instances of workers with bogus or questionable Social Security numbers on public school projects in Littleton and North Easton.’’

Blueberry grower Jasper Wyman & Son of Milbridge, Maine, was fined $118,000. In November, the Globe reported that the firm had been cited “for violations that range from paperwork errors to the possibility that more than 200 of its 1,200 person workforce over two years were in the country illegally.’’

Edward R. Flanagan, president and chief executive of Wyman, told the Globe then that he never knew the workers lacked proper documentation. He said he had started using a federal verification system that lets companies check the legal status of workers.

Foucart said yesterday that the blueberry grower also cooperated with ICE officials in fall 2008 during the arrests of eight potentially illegal employees. They were arrested on administrative, not criminal, charges and went through court deportation proceedings, he said.

Nationally, ICE says nearly 4,000 businesses have been fined nearly $7 million combined on such violations.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at mjrochele@gmail.com.