- Associated Press - Friday, November 21, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - The former owner of a metro Phoenix car wash chain was sentenced to one year in prison and another year of home confinement for his acknowledged role in a scheme to hire hundreds of workers who weren’t in the country legally.

Authorities say Daniel Lewis Hendon, the former owner of Danny’s Family Car Wash, broke the law by rehiring workers who were fired after a federal audit found nearly half of the company’s 1,900-person workforce had presented insufficient or ineligible records when they were hired. Thirteen other managers admitted participation in the scheme, and most were sentenced to a few months in prison.

“You led your team into committing these crimes,” U.S. District Judge Neil Wake said.

The judge said the government had already given Hendon a second chance after the audit, but the business owner went on to continue exploiting cheaper foreign labor that undercuts poor, unskilled workers. The sentence was less than the 18-month prison sentence and 19-month home confinement sought by prosecutors.

In pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge, Hendon admitted he turned a blind eye toward his business’ hiring of immigrants who weren’t in the country illegally. Hendon, who has since divested himself of the car wash business, also agreed to forfeit $156,000 seized from the accounts of his businesses.

Hendon sobbed his way through his comments to the judge. He said he was sorry and wasn’t offering any excuses for his actions. “What I did was wrong,” Hendon said. “I have to pay for the consequences for it.”

Family members and a Hendon friend pleaded for leniency, describing the once prominent figure in the Phoenix business community as a broken man who no longer has any money. They pointed out that Hendon, who once worked as a police officer, held fundraisers for the families of officers who were killed in the line of duty.

Prosecutor Dominic Lanza said prison time was necessarily because of the wide scope of the scheme.

“Danny’s Car Wash didn’t play by the rules,” Lanza said.

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