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
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.