Company owner says he did not hire illegal immigrants to work on construction projects

A Greenville construction company owner

has pleaded innocent to charges he used dozens of illegal

immigrants to work on bridges and other critical infrastructure

projects in at least three states.

Jose S. Gonzalez, 32, the owner of Tarrasco Steel Co., entered

the plea Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Eugene M. Bogen in

Greenville. Bogen allowed Gonzalez to remain free on a $25,000

secured bond. He scheduled Gonzalez's trial for Sept. 24 in U.S.

District Court in Greenville.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement alleges in an

indictment that Gonzalez hired undocumented workers from Honduras,

Guatemala and Mexico to work on projects across the Gulf Coast


ICE spokesman Temple Black said Gonzalez provided steel rebar,

workers and installation services to major highway bridge

construction projects.

In March, Black said agents raided several work sites and found

illegal workers on the Mississippi-Arkansas bridge near Greenville;

the U.S. 90 bridge in Gulfport; the Huey P. Long bridge in

Jefferson Parish, La.; the Interstate 40 seismic retro fit in

Memphis; and the Louisiana 1 bridge in Leeville, La.

At least 77 illegal workers were arrested during the raids,

including 26 Tarrasco Steel employees. The remaining were employees

of other construction companies at the sites.

Black said the government determined the majority of Tarrasco

Steel employees were using unauthorized Social Security numbers for

employment, Black said.

"ICE obtained copies of payroll records for the employees for

verification of the employees' status in the United States and to

substantiate the allegations of criminal misconduct," he said.

"Gonzalez allegedly falsified and altered information on the I-9

Employee Eligibility Forms."

Black said ICE's investigation also revealed that the employees

did not have proper welding certifications.


Information from: Delta Democrat Times,