The owner of a Maryland seafood and ice processing company that employed at least 89 illegal immigrants was sentenced last week to a year of probation and a $15,000 fine, and had to promise to use E-Verify to screen new hires in the future.
Philip J. “Jamie” Harrington III worked out the deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to a single charge of unlawful employment of illegal immigrants. His company, Captain Phip‘s Seafood, was sentenced to three years of probation and a fine of $240,000 for felony visa fraud.
Harrington also asked that his probation officer allow him to make his usual trips this year to Florida and the Bahamas for Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year’s holidays.
The no-jail-time sentence comes even as the Biden administration promises to get tough on employers of illegal immigrants, saying it wants to stop arresting the unauthorized workers themselves.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has told his agents and officers that being in the country illegally is no longer a sufficient reason, on its own, for someone to be arrested or deported.
Earlier this month, prosecutors completed a case against a national steel manufacturing and carport construction company, ordering it to forfeit $6 million in profits from illegal immigrants it employed. But the owner of that business, a former illegal immigrant himself, had his smuggling charges dropped.
“In his culture laws are there but few respect them,” the company’s lawyers wrote in defending the lenient sentencing.
In the case of Harrington and Captain Phip‘s, federal investigators found the firm and a network of other companies cheated the legal guest-worker system, bringing in foreigners for lower-wage jobs but giving them tasks that should have commanded higher pay. That move denied Americans the chance to take those jobs at the higher pay.
Captain Phip‘s used at least 142 visa workers from 2013 to 2018, though investigators said they couldn’t put a monetary figure on the amount of cheating.
And Harrington admitted he had hired other migrants who were in the country without any legal status at all — including some who came legally but overstayed their visas, and others who snuck in without permission. Several of the workers had even been arrested and were in deportation proceedings, but Harrington employed them anyway.
In a memo to the judge, Harrington’s lawyers said he specifically acknowledged allowing four illegal immigrants who’d been arrested by Homeland Security, then released while their cases were pending, to keep their jobs.
They said he “erroneously but genuinely” figured they were entitled to keep working while their cases were being heard in the immigration courts.
Prosecutors said they found records showing 89 illegal immigrants were employed between 2013 and 2018.
Harrington, 50, a resident of Dorchester, has run the company since 2019, after the death of his father, Philip J. Harrington Jr.
Federal agents seized more than $700,000 from the company and Harrington, and the combined $255,000 in fines were taken from that. The rest of the money will be returned, prosecutors said.