News/US: Labor scheme extends from Europe to Kentucky

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Subject: News/US: Labor scheme extends from Europe to Kentucky
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Wed Jan 26 2000 - 20:01:43 EST


Labor scheme extends from Europe to Kentucky
The Associated Press, January 24, 2000

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Federal investigators are tracking what they say is
a smuggling ring that funneled Eastern European immigrants to employers in
Kentucky and other states.

Six people with ties to a Florida-based employment agency have been
arrested. Three others who operated a Lexington employment agency have been
named in court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Lexington but not
charged.

And many of the dozens of illegal immigrants working for Lexington hotels
have disappeared after agents with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization
Service raided two offices and a home on Nov. 17.

"It hurt a lot of innocent people who were only trying to better
themselves," said Jim Willman, vice president of operations for The
Drawbridge Inn in Fort Mitchell.

It is unclear how many workers in Kentucky lost their jobs.

Landislav Danis, of Palm Harbor, Fla., is charged with mail fraud. Petr
Gloncak, of Lexington, is charged with money laundering and conspiracy.
Norbert Plavcak and Jana Gloncakova, of Lexington, face charges of
obstructing justice, conspiracy and destroying property subject to search
and seizure warrants.

Two other people, Jan Rudolf and Vaclav Filip, natives of the Czech
Republic living in Norfolk, Va., face charges stemming from the
transportation of illegal aliens to the United States.

Federal authorities allege Danis operated CKM Services, which supplied
contract workers to employment agencies.

At the center of the investigation is International Labor Resources, a
Lexington janitorial service that provides employment in Kentucky, Oklahoma
and North Carolina.

The company is owned by husband and wife Charles L. and Penelope "Penny"
Martin, and Debra Hoffman, who investigators allege found local work for
the aliens using CKM Services.

None face charges, but INS agents seized records from the company's office
and the Martins' home.

Charles Martin referred questions to his attorney, Robert Wellford, who
declined comment. Debra Hoffman could not be reached for comment.

In addition to the federal investigation, the state Labor Cabinet is
investigating at least one complaint against ILR, according to a story
published in the Lexington Herald-Leader. Deputy General Counsel Gordon R.
Slone would not elaborate on the investigation.

Federal investigators allege the companies supplied many workers with
counterfeit visas and other immigration documents.

Some Lexington businesses that used workers from ILR include The Radisson
Plaza, Sheraton Suites, The Ramada Inn and Conference Center on North
Broadway, Bluegrass Suites on Buena Vista Road, Holiday Inn Express on
Elkhorn Road and the Best Western Regency. The Drawbridge Inn in Fort
Mitchell and Four Points Hotel and Suites in Louisville also used workers,
according to the Herald-Leader.

Hotel managers say they didn't know the workers they hired were illegal
immigrants. And in some cases the immigrants didn't know they had improper
documents.

"I asked all the right questions. I was assured they had the proper
documents. We were completely taken by surprise," said Martha Alexander,
director of operations for a partnership that owns four Kentucky hotels.

"This has destroyed people," Alexander said.

Hotel managers say a low unemployment rate and competition with area
industry forced them to look to a labor contractor for employees.

"I've heard that every full-service hotel was relying to a lesser or larger
degree on the services," said John Goodwin, general manager of Sheraton
Suites on Richmond Road, which had three of the workers.

Federal documents give no indication of how much the workers were paid in
Kentucky, but most had minimum-wage positions.

The hotel managers say they're concerned about the workers, whom they
haven't heard from since they had to leave their jobs. At Alexander's four
hotels, the workers hadn't been paid by ILR for a month before the
investigation broke, she said, and they left the hotel "without a nickel in
their pocket."

Melanie Orhant

morhant@igc.org
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