Horsham firm admits guilt in immigrant scheme
By BEN FINLEY
Bucks County Courier Times
June 25, 2008 5:08 AM
A Horsham company pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to charges that it hired illegal immigrants and provided them with false identities.
Car Care, a wholly owned subsidiary of Mace Security International, based in Horsham, hired the illegal immigrants to work at car washes the company owned, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The government said that from 2000 to 2006, Car Care managers operated a scheme that allowed the car washes to hire illegal workers by giving them false names and a way to cash their checks at local banks without identification. The banks were given a list, by some managers, of the employees authorized to cash pay checks without showing identification other than the T-shirts or sweatshirts they wore bearing the Car Care logo.
The government said that Car Care intentionally refrained from filing termination papers when illegal workers quit so that the names of former employees could be given to new illegal workers in order to keep the scheme going.
Several Car Care managers have already pleaded guilty to the charge and are awaiting sentencing, including Timothy Gibson, 36, of Falls Township. He pleaded guilty Monday in federal court for his part in a scheme.
Gibson was the manager of the Super Bright Car Wash on East Germantown Pike in Norristown in 2005 and 2006, when 90 percent of its workers were found to be illegal immigrants, according to the federal indictment. They worked under the identities of people who were former, legitimate employees, officials said.
The government said Gibson and four other managers of area car washes owned by Car Care provided each illegal worker with a stolen identity, including a Social Security number, of a former employee.
As the illegal workers came and went, the identity of one former employee was often assigned to several illegal immigrants, officials said. That way, the managers wouldn't have to file termination papers when the workers quit, according to court documents.
The stolen identities allowed the immigrants to cash or deposit their checks at local banks.
The sham, as U.S. Attorney Patrick L. Meehan called it last month, put competing car washes at a disadvantage.
The illegal immigrants were paid minimum wage or better. But Meehan said the issue wasn't so much about pay. Rather, he said, the car washes didn't have to provide protections, like workers' compensation, to the illegal workers.
Meehan, of the Justice Department's Eastern Pennsylvania District, said the investigation focused on the managers of the car washes in New Jersey and Montgomery County. But he said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 57 illegal immigrants who worked at the car washes.
The grand jury indictment against Gibson and his alleged conspirators was based, in large part, on reports from informants within the company. Car Care, which owned the car washes, was a subsidiary of the New Jersey-based Mace Security International. The car washes involved have since been sold, officials said.
The other four men who were charged are from Philadelphia and New Jersey.
Bill Devlin contributed to this story.
Ben Finley can be reached at 215-949-4203 or bfinley@phillyBurbs.com.