DOJ Announces Convictions for Major Undercover Operation in South Carolina     

The Department of Justice recently announced convictions in a major undercover operation involving seven construction-related companies in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. After a years-long investigation into the construction industry in the region, 12 defendants have been sentenced for immigration and employment-related crimes. The announcement underscores the significant criminal repercussions for manipulating undocumented individuals for personal gain.

Illegal Check-Cashing Scheme

The convictions stem from unscrupulous business practices in the construction industry in the South Carolina coastal region spanning several years. Specifically, in late 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) and Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) started investigating an illegal check-cashing scheme. The scheme used unlicensed check cashers to facilitate under-the-table cash payments to employees, many of whom were undocumented noncitizens. 

The announcement stated certain construction companies hired unlicensed check cashers to cash employment checks for undocumented individuals to avoid certain employment taxes.  A member of the construction company would give the check casher a business check made out to a company the check casher had created; in retur