Seafood company, owner admits hiring undocumented workers, visa fraud – WGMD
An Eastern Shore company and its owner have pleaded guilty to illegal employment of undocumented workers and visa fraud.
According to the Maryland US Attorney’s Office, Phillip “Jamie” Harrington the Third, 50, and Captain Phip’s Seafood Incorporated paid undocumented foreign workers less than they were entitled to by manipulating the H2-B visa program. The alleged activity took place over a five-year period that began in 2013, prosecutors said.
Harrington and the company will be sentenced in November.
“Over a period of five years, Captain Phips Seafood and his owners engaged in a calculated pattern of visa fraud which not only deceived the government, but also resulted in lower wages for their employees,” said the Acting US Attorney Jonathan Lenzner. “Rather than following the rules followed by other companies, the defendants manipulated the H2-B visa program with the sole aim of increasing their profits at the expense of their employees and the fair market.”
The US Attorney’s Office has provided additional information on the case (below)
Philip J. Harrington, Jr. was the owner, president and sole director of Captain Phip until his death on February 13, 2018. As of March 6, 2019, Captain Phip has been owned and operated by the son of Philip Harrington , Jamie Harrington. The main activity of Capt. Phip’s is the production and distribution of ice cream as well as the processing of seafood. For more than a decade, Captain Phip’s has participated in the H-2B work visa program through which he obtained temporary foreign workers to fill seasonal positions.
According to the company’s guilty plea, from 2013 to 2018, Captain Phip’s Seafood Inc. regularly sought to determine the going wages for several job descriptions and then filed H-2B visa applications only for jobs with the lowest salary, regardless of the work duties of the employees. The H-2B visa program is a temporary program for non-agricultural workers in which an employer can apply for temporary authorization for foreign workers to legally enter and work in the United States. To obtain an H-2B visa, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) must ensure that positions have been advertised to workers based in the United States and assign the appropriate salary to be paid (“effective salary”) based on the job description.
AAs stated in the plea agreement, Captain Phip’s willfully submitted false and inaccurate job descriptions to obtain lower wages in effect for his overseas workers. Captain Phip’s omissions regarding all of the duties to be performed by his Temporary Foreign Workers led the DOL to approve Captain Phip’s to pay a current salary lower than that which would have been allowed had Captain Phip’s provided truthful information.
For example, in 2016, Captain Phip’s requested and obtained current salary determinations for three positions: Ice Conveyor Operators with a going salary of $ 12.51; oyster production workers with a going wage of $ 16.96; and ice machine operators (ice production workers) with a going wage of $ 11.10. Captain Phip’s then filed a petition for the ice production workers with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The petition was approved and the Department of State (DOS) issued 24 H-2B visas to non-immigrant Mexican nationals authorizing them to work for Captain Phip’s as ice workers in the United States. Once Mexican ice-making workers entered the United States, Captain Phip’s used these workers for jobs beyond ice-making, including oyster processing, as ice cream attendants. ‘maintenance, truck drivers and driver helpers. Captain Phip’s admits that he intentionally and falsely claimed that foreign workers would only be engaged in ice production to pay them the lowest prevailing wage. Had Captain Phip genuinely filed for H-2B visas for many of these duties, these employees would have been entitled to a higher salary.
AAs noted in the company’s plea agreement, on August 31, 2017, a USCIS officer and government agents conducted an on-site visit to Captain Phip in Secretary, MD. At that time, workers on Captain Phip’s H-2B were only allowed to perform oyster production work. During the on-site visit, three H-2B visa recipients were interviewed through an interpreter and indicated that their current duties involved ice conditioning duties rather than oyster production work.
A USCIS officer and agents also interviewed Phillip Harrington, Jr., who signed all of the H2-B visa applications for Captain Phip’s and his son, Jamie Harrington, who identified himself as the vice president. Captain Phip’s, responsible for “running the business”, to include buying and selling products, managing product levels, and hiring and / or firing. Jamie Harrington admitted that all of the workers on Captain Phip’s H-2B pack ice and none of them are currently processing oysters. Workers’ H-2B visas for 2017 only allowed them to work in oyster processing. Jamie Harrington admitted that Captain Phip’s visa applications should have been aimed at ice and oyster processing workers.
During the August 31, 2017 interview, Jaime Harrington stated that he was also President of Easton Ice Company, Inc. (“Easton Ice”). Easton Ice’s main office is the same physical address as Captain Phip’s premises in Secretary, Maryland. A subsequent interview with a recipient of several H-2B visas issued by Captain Phip’s, including in 2017, when H-2B workers were only allowed for oyster processing, revealed that their duties that season consisted of driving a truck and delivering ice cream. In September 2017, an officer observed this person driving a truck with the name “Easton Ice”. The officer also saw another recipient of Captain Phip’s H-2B delivering ice and getting into the truck. Easton Ice did not apply for an H-2B visa in 2017, and workers with H-2B visas obtained by Captain Phips were not allowed to work for Easton Ice Company. Nonetheless, Jamie Harrington admitted that recipients of Captain Phip’s H-2B visa were regularly assigned to do work for Easton Ice and other companies controlled by Philip and Jamie Harrington.
On August 9, 2018, government agents questioned Jamie Harrington at Captain Phip’s premises in Secretary, Md. Jfriend Harrington admitted that the company was not in compliance with the requirements of the H-2B visa program and that some of Captain Phip’s H-2B workers were driving trucks or performing other duties outside the scope of their visas, including work for other companies controlled by Philip and Jamie Harrington, including Easton Ice, Woodfield Ice Company, Inc. (“Woodfield Ice”), as well as two motels in Ocean City, Maryland, owned by members of the Harrington family. Officers pointed out to Jamie Harrington that if the H-2B requests had been true about the location and duties of the workers at Woodfield Ice, the going pay would have been much higher as this company is located in the metro area. of Washington, DC.
Between 2013 and 2018, Captain Phip filed H-2B visa applications for approximately 142 non-immigrant workers. Captain Phip’s officers involved in the H-2B process knew that non-immigrant workers were intended to be employed to engage in work beyond the job descriptions permitted by worker visas. Captain Phip achieved illegal benefits through the use of fraudulently low prevailing wages between April 2013 and December 2018, although the exact amount cannot be determined. Captain Phip’s has not participated in the H-2B visa program since at least January 2019.
Jamie Harrington is also the owner and ooperator of several other businesses involved in the production and distribution of ice as well as seafood processing, machine rental, housing development, oyster farming and other businesses including: Easton Ice; Woodfield Ice Cream; Oyster PJH; Two sons RS, LLC; Philson Properties, LLC; Two sons CP LLC; P&N Farms; Atlantic Rentals, LLC; DMS Hurlock, LLC; The reservation at Wright’s Wharf Homeowners Association; and Super Transporter, LLC. (with Capt. Phip’s, the “Harrington Companies”.
Harrington admitted in his plea agreement that, from 2013 and until at least August 9, 2018, he had engaged in a practice and practice of hiring and employing workers without legal immigration status in the Harrington companies. Most of the unauthorized workers were Mexican citizens and nationals. Some of the undocumented workers Jamie Harrington hired and employed entered the United States legally and exceeded their visa terms, others never had legal status to be in the United States. Payroll analysis and other records show that approximately 89 undocumented workers were employed by Harrington companies between 2013 and 2018. Harrington continued to employ several of the workers even after knowing they had done so. ‘subject to removal proceedings by immigration officials because they did not have legal status to be present or work in the United States.
Jamie Harrington faces a maximum sentence of six months in federal prison and a fine of $ 267,000 for illegal employment of undocumented workers. Captain Phip’s Seafood faces a maximum sentence of five years probation and a fine of $ 500,000 for the illegal employment of undocumented workers. United States District Judge Ellen L. Hollander sentenced the two on November 23, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.
Acting US Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended HSI, DSS, and DOL-OIG for their work in the investigation and thanked the Baltimore District Office of the US Department of Labor’s Wages and Hours Division for his help. Mr. Lenzner thanked Deputy US Prosecutors Zachary A. Myers and Judson T. Mihok, who are pursuing the case.