RAPID CITY, S.D. -- The owners of two companies in Rapid City and Hermosa have been ordered to pay more than $1.2 million for employing undocumented immigrants under a U.S. Forest Service contract.
U.S. Attorney for South Dakota Randy Seiler announced Tuesday that a civil judgement of $759,999 has been entered against Aurelio Munoz-Escalante of Black Hills Thinning of Rapid City and a judgement of $458,374 against Sergio Munoz-Escalante of SM Logging & Services of Hermosa.
The monetary awards consist of damages and 44 separate penalties for employing the undocumented workers in the Forest Service contract work related to thinning unhealthy timber in the Black Hills National Forest.
Federal contracts do not permit work to be done by undocumented immigrants.
The contractors submitted invoices for payment, which falsely certified that the work was performed by legal workers.
The False Claims Act imposes damages and penalties on persons and companies who knowingly submit false claims to the government.
In all, the U.S. attorney’s office in South Dakota has recovered $1.67 million in damages and penalties in the past year for similar fraud. Civil settlements totaling $455,000 were reached last November involving five other individuals: Angel Munoz-Escalante and Barbara Munoz of Munoz Logging and Construction Company ($375,000); Rogelio Escalante Sr. of Escalante Logging and Services ($50,000); Rogelio Escalante Jr. of Escalante Logging and Thinning Company ($15,000); and Raul Munoz of R Munoz Thinning ($15,000)).
Assistant U.S. attorney Cheryl Schrempp DuPris prosecuted the cases for the office.
The investigation into the fraud involved the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, Rapid City Police Department, Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, Custer County’s Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Department of Labor, and other federal and state law enforcement agencies.