Miriam Jordan, Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2011
Three McDonald’s Corp. restaurant managers in Savannah, Ga., were charged Wednesday with selling identities stolen from U.S. citizens to prospective workers, a case that federal authorities say shows the risks employers are increasingly taking to mask the hiring of illegal immigrants.
Agents Wednesday arrested managers Oscar Lazo, 51 years old, a Peruvian national; Eva Ramos, 35, a U.S. citizen; and another unnamed manager, a Mexican citizen who was working under a stolen identity, at the restaurants. In addition to the managers, agents arrested nine immigrants at the restaurants and held two Mexican nationals, former employees of McDonald’s in the area, at their homes.
It wasn’t clear how the managers allegedly obtained the allegedly stolen identities.
Illegal immigrants, sometimes with the encouragement of their employers, are increasingly using the bona fide documents of legal residents or citizens of the U.S. to get hired.
Mr. Nicholson said that the Savannah case could be indicative of a new trend. As the federal government’s “ability to investigate becomes better,” he said, enterprises that want to engage in illegal hiring are devising “more sophisticated methods” to avoid detection.
The use of an electronic system that checks a person’s work eligibility, called E-Verify, is now mandatory for employers in several states. And the system must also be used by companies that do business with the government. However, it cannot detect illegal hires using someone else’s identity.
If convicted on all counts, Mr. Lazo and Ms. Ramos face a maximum statutory penalty of more than 100 years in prison.