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Roofing company owner pleads guilty in human trafficking, fraud case

The owner of Williams Brothers Roofing and Siding pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to two counts related to a years-long conspiracy of smuggling undocumented workers, filing false tax documents and insurance fraud.

Gregory Oldiges, 55, could spend from 24 to 57 months in federal prison, pay a fine of up to $100,000, pay restitution determined by the court plus forfeit financial assets worth about $2 million, and a $500,000 home and a 2012 GMC Sierra pickup truck.

That sentence can be accepted or rejected by U.S. District Court Judge Walter H. Rice, who scheduled another hearing for April 8. If Rice rejects the plea agreement, Oldiges can withdraw his plea which covers this criminal case and civil forfeiture cases.

“There was a level of greed here,” U.S. Attorney Vipal Patel said. “Williams Brothers didn’t just pay illegal workers … What makes this case rather unique is that you have a plethora of different illegal activities ongoing at the same time..”

Court documents show Oldiges’ company paid human traffickers to bring illegal workers from Texas, had en employee drive them to Ohio and paid the workers less than their regular roofing crews. Williams Brothers also falsified names, Social Security numbers and tax documents plus wrote dummy invoices so the company and its customers could recoup the insurance deductible costs and more. Prosecutors called it a greedy scheme.

“It was all in an effort to be able to write off that labor cost,” Patel said. “That certainly caught our attention.”

Oldiges was released on his own recognizance, provided he stay in southwest Ohio and surrender his passport. Oldiges’ attorney, Greg Lockhart, said if someone took an honest survey of roofing companies that they all would say they use illegal workers. “It’s unfortunate,” Lockhart said of Oldiges’ situation.

Patel said the investigation began in mid-2012 after individuals informed Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) about Williams Brothers’ alleged recruitment and use of illegal, undocumented workers. Patel added that “Williams Brothers is an ongoing concern, (but) we were not out to shut the company down. That was not a goal of the investigation or prosecution.”

As for the roofing industry, Patel said, “We hope the message is that this is not OK; this has consequences beyond simply hiring some illegal workers.” He later added that, “This has sort of raised the specter, raised a question of what are other companies in the construction business doing in our community. We want to make sure that everybody’s doing it right.”

The maximum penalties Oldiges could have faced were 25 years in prison, a $500,000 fine, restitution to be determined and three year’s supervised release. A Williams Roofing employee, Jim Honius, pleaded guilty in December to one count of wire fraud for his major role in the insurance fraud scheme. Honious also is scheduled to be sentenced April 8. Prosecutors recommended no prison time for Honious.

According to court documents, Oldiges’ company entered into at least 39 purported subcontracts with illegal aliens to perform roofing services between 2004 and 2013. Oldiges and/or his employees knew many workers used aliases or false names, which were then used on fraudulent IRS 1099 forms. Those were filed so the company could write off the illegal workers’ labor costs on the Williams Brothers’ corporate tax returns.

Between 2009 and 2012, Williams Brothers invoiced its customers about $11.75 million for work performed by its illegal workforce, for which Williams Brothers paid the illegal workers $1.7 million. Oldiges also paid for the smuggling of some illegal workers and then recouped those costs by withholding money paid to the illegal crews.

Between November 2010 and December 2012, Oldiges’ company submitted at least 80 fraudulent duplicate or “dummy” invoices totaling about $1.36 million to different insurance companies when the real amount that Williams Brothers charged its customers was around $1.24 million.

“The schemes perpetuated by this defendant were pervasive, touching nearly every aspect of the business. These unscrupulous tactics clearly gave his company an unfair advantage over competitors,” said Marlon Miller, special agent in charge for HSI Detroit, which covers Michigan and Ohio. “When companies engage in these types of schemes, workers are often exploited and businesses that play by the rules simply cannot compete.”

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