- The Washington Times - Friday, February 23, 2007

Three top executives at a nationwide cleaning service were named in a federal grand jury indictment unsealed yesterday, charged with conspiracy, fraud and tax crimes in an ongoing investigation that has netted more than 200 illegal aliens who worked as janitors.

The illegal aliens, all of whom were employed by Florida-based cleaning contractor Rosenbaum-Cunningham International Inc. (RCI), were arrested in 17 states at 63 locations — including the Hard Rock Cafe, ESPN Zone, Planet Hollywood, Dave & Busters and the House of Blues restaurants.

Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers, who heads U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said RCI co-owners Richard M. Rosenbaum, 60, of Longwood, Fla., and Edward Scott Cunningham, 43, of West Palm Beach, Fla., and the firm’s controller, Christina Flocken, 59, also of Longwood, were named in the 23-count indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The indictment and arrests were the latest in a series of high-profile efforts by the Bush administration to strengthen its immigration-enforcement credentials as Congress and the White House begin debate on a new round of immigration legislation.

Much of that effort has been aimed at work-site enforcement, targeting and bringing administrative sanctions against employers who hire illegal aliens.

In the past 10 months, ICE and other federal agencies have raided, among others, Swift & Co., arresting 1,300 illegal aliens in six states and finding that 30 percent of the company’s work force used fraudulent documents to be hired. Also, at IFCO Systems North America, seven company managers were charged with harboring illegal aliens for financial gain and 1,200 illegals were apprehended at 40 locations nationwide.

Cecilia Munoz, a senior vice president at the National Council of La Raza, which has called on the Bush administration to root out unscrupulous employers who hire and exploit migrant workers, applauded the government’s targeting of the RCI officials, saying it was “the kind of immigration enforcement” the country needed.

“By the sound of it, these employers were taking outrageous advantage of these workers,” she said.

The ICE-led investigation began 20 months ago, when agents focused on cleaning crews at the Grand Traverse Resort in northwestern Michigan.

“We know that targeting unscrupulous employers is crucial to deterring illegal immigration,” Mrs. Myers said.

According to the indictment, RCI, which is licensed in Nevada, operated a cleaning and grounds-maintenance service that contracted with theme restaurant chains and hospitality venues throughout the United States, most of which were predominantly staffed by illegal aliens.

The indictment said that the restaurant chains and hospitality venues paid RCI more than $54.3 million for janitorial services from 2001 to 2005 and that by failing to collect and pay federal income, Social Security, Medicare and federal employment taxes on the wages it paid to its work force, RCI was able to evade payment of more than $18.6 million in employment taxes.

Mr. Rosenbaum, Mr. Cunningham and Mrs. Flocken, according to the indictment, spent about $34 million of the firm’s revenue to operate RCI and divided the remainder, about $20 million, among themselves. It said they disguised the true nature of their activities and obstructed the Internal Revenue Service by creating several shell companies and bank accounts to hide their excess funds.

The excess funds, according to U.S. Attorney Margaret M. Chiara in Michigan, were used by Mr. Rosenbaum, Mr. Cunningham and Mrs. Flocken to pay personal expenses for items such as luxury boats, vehicles, lavish homes and racehorses.

If convicted, the RCI officials face 15 years in prison and $18 million in restitution fees.

“This case is an excellent example of the cooperative efforts of federal law-enforcement agencies,” Mrs. Chiara said.

RCI officials were not available yesterday. A message on the company’s answering machine said it had ceased operations.

In addition to the indictment, ICE arrested more than 200 illegal aliens Wednesday night and yesterday morning as part of the ongoing operation.

The indictment is part of a continuing criminal prosecution against the principals and certain employees of RCI.

Santiago Echaniz, an ex-RCI supervisor, pleaded guilty to charges of harboring illegal aliens and making a false statement on a tax return. Former RCI employees Ofmara Maltos-Trevino and Miguel Martinez-Garcia pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the unlawful employment of aliens, and Juanita Schlagel pleaded guilty to a two-count indictment charging trafficking in means of identification.

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