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Kansas Contractors Who Paid Undocumented Workers Face Federal Charges

Elle Moxley

Six people face federal money laundering charges in an alleged $13 million scheme that allowed Kansas contractors to pay undocumented workers in cash.

U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom announced the charges Thursday at the federal courthouse in Kansas City, Kan. Grissom said that instead of raiding factories looking for undocumented workers, his office is trying to target the root cause of illegal immigration.

"We've thought that there has to be a better, more humane and from the taxpayer's standpoint, a more effective way to address this problem," Grissom said.

"So what we've done is we have targeted what we believe to be one of the major focuses driving our illegal immigration problem, which is employers who knowingly hire undocumented persons."

Keith L. Countess, 55; Marcos Lane Stubbs, 44; Luis Felipe Guerrero-Guerrero, 26; Jose Felipe Hernandez-Calvillo, 39; Mauro Paplotzi, 34; and Isaac Gallegos, 35; are charged with money laundering, bank fraud and harboring undocumented workers.

According to Grissom: The scheme revolved around Jose R. Torres, 51, who was charged and convicted in a separate case. Torres, who is in the U.S. legally, received checks payable to a fake drywall company. He then deposited the checks and withdrew cash, which he gave to subcontractors so they could pay crews of undocumented workers.

Many of the money exchanges took place at a Boost Mobile store in Olathe, Kan., according to the indictment.

Torres deposited more than $13 million dollars in accounts at Bank of America and Wells Fargo between October 2012 and June 2014. He kept 5 percent as his fee and cashed out the rest.

"In my view and I think in the view of many people, employers who are knowingly hiring undocumented workers are a big reason for our nation's struggle with unlawful immigration," Grissom said. "Put simply, if nobody's hiring, nobody's coming."

Grissom said he hopes the indictments will deter others considering the gains they can make by hiring undocumented workers.

"What we're hoping to do, as we've done here, is to go after somebody or an entity so other folks out there can see what the consequences of that behavior are," Grissom said.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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