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Feds say 20 to 30 illegal immigrants worked in Wichita restaurants McDonald’s franchisee pleads guilty to hiring illegal worker

  • Eagle staff and wire reports
  • Published Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, at 9:38 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, at 10:26 p.m.

A company that owns six McDonald’s restaurants in Wichita has pleaded guilty to knowingly hiring an illegal worker, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

A federal investigation found that five of the six McCalla Corp. McDonald’s store managers were unlawfully in the United States at the time they were employed, as were many other employees, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said. The charge was representative of McCalla’s hiring and employment practices, he said.

“Any attempt to minimize or excuse this kind of conduct is unacceptable,” Grissom said in a statement. “We know these practices are widespread, and investigations similar to the McCalla case are under way.”

Prosecutors said the illegal workers have been fired by the company.

Lawyers for McCalla entered the plea of guilty to one count of knowingly accepting a fraudulent identification document as proof of employment eligibility. The company agreed to pay a $300,000 fine and an additional $100,000 forfeiture judgment, Grissom said.

The forfeiture represented the “unjust enrichment” the corporation garnered as a result of hiring illegal immigrants at a reduced rate and not having to payroll taxes such as Social Security, Medicare and other withholding taxes, Grissom said.

McCalla’s attorney, Lee Thompson, said the company has already paid the fines and “is a good corporate citizen and accepts responsibilities for the acts of its employees.” He noted that the criminal charge was limited to one incident.

The company owns restaurants at 1630 S. Hillside, 11989 E. Kellogg, 501 E. Pawnee, 1219 S. Rock Road, 2418 S. Seneca and 1645 S. Webb Road.

The government estimated that 20 to 30 illegal immigrants worked at the restaurants from May 2009 through September 2012.

McCalla is the second Kansas company this year to be prosecuted for knowingly employing illegal immigrants.

In September, the U.S. attorney’s office charged the owners of two Clarion hotels – one in Kansas City and the other in Overland Park – after finding half of their employees were illegal immigrants.

The owners, a suburban Kansas City couple, face charges including conspiracy to harbor illegal immigrants for personal gain. If convicted, they could lose their two hotels and bank accounts and spend decades in prison.

Grissom said going after business owners is more effective than showing up at a job site and arresting illegal immigrant workers, which he said usually results in other illegal workers replacing them in a few days.

“So the most cost-effective message we can send out is, if you as an employer are knowingly hiring undocumented persons, then we are going to pursue you,” Grissom said. “This is going to send a very loud and clear message.”

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