Mack case serves as wakeup call to employers

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Federal court criminal proceedings against Mack Associates, which operates 11 McDonalds franchises in Northern Nevada, constitute a cautionary tale for other businesses tempted to hire illegal aliens in our area. The Mack case was closed 10 days ago when two company executives were sentenced to probation and community service.

Federal District Judge James Mahan sentenced former Mack Vice President Jimmy Moore and ex-Operations Director Joe Gillespie to three years probation and 90 hours of community service each after they pleaded guilty to felony charges of knowingly hiring illegal immigrants to work at their McDonalds franchises. The relatively light sentences were part of a plea deal under which Mack Associates paid $1 million in fines and was placed on a one-year probation. Earlier, two lower-level Mack employees pleaded guilty to lesser charges and were fined $1,000 each and assessed 90 hours of community service.

Although the principal owner of the Reno company, prominent businessman Luther Mack, wasn't charged in the high-profile case, court documents filed by U.S. Attorney Greg Brower revealed that Mack knew what was going on. Brower asserted that Mack was well aware that one or more of his employees was illegal, including the manager of one of his McDonalds franchises. Moore's attorney told the court that the well-connected Mack escaped prosecution for "political reasons."

According to federal prosecutors, Mack, Moore and Gillespie engaged in a so-called "good papers" scheme in which the company knowingly hired 58 illegal immigrants and provided many of them with false identification papers. Some of the fake identities were those of former or deceased McDonalds employees, and Social Security numbers were falsified. That's one of the most serious aspects of this case because of the current identity theft epidemic in our country.

"While there is no direct evidence establishing who initiated the 'good papers' scheme ... Moore certainly executed the scheme ... by directing employees to follow his orders to engage in criminal activity," a sentencing document stated.

A Fernley store manager admitted that she was in the U.S. illegally and that most of her 43 employees were illegals. It's simply far-fetched to believe that Luther Mack was unaware that his top employees were engaged in a systematic pattern of illegal activity.

Back in August I wrote a column arguing that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids have had a chilling effect on illegal immigration in Northern Nevada. The McDonalds raids represented a wake-up call for local businessmen who hire and exploit "undocumented" (illegal) workers, I wrote, and noted that some unscrupulous businessmen hire illegals "off the payroll" and pay them in cash. In the Mack case, however, paychecks were issued.

"We can't have it both ways," I wrote in August, "demanding vigorous enforcement of our immigration laws and then complaining when local businesses are raided for knowingly hiring illegal workers, no matter who's involved." In other words, political connections should have nothing to do with immigration law enforcement.

As President-elect Barack Obama searches for bipartisan solutions to our nation's most pressing problems, it's interesting to note that little attention has been paid to the immigration issue. Even though illegal immigration has declined recently due to dire economic conditions, it's an issue that must be dealt with sooner or later.

I worried when Obama and his defeated challenger, Sen. John McCain, renewed their call for "comprehensive immigration reform" - a stealth amnesty program - during their face-to-face meeting after the Nov. 4 election.

I urge Nevada's Republican Sen. John Ensign and Congressman Dean Heller to hang tough on illegal immigration, and to insist on strict border control measures before considering "comprehensive immigration reform."

Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, was married to a legal immigrant from Mexico for more than 40 years.


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