Contact theSOPAbout theSOPSupport theSOPWritersEditorsManaging Editors
theSOP logo
Published:June 21st, 2007 08:37 EST

Three St. Louis brothers charged with smuggling illegal workers

By SOP newswire

ST. LOUIS - Three local brothers were arrested today by agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and are accused of recruiting illegal aliens to work as roofers in their St. Louis business, Golden Roofing LLC. U.S. Attorney Catherine L. Hanaway, Eastern District of Missouri, made the announcement; the case is being investigated by ICE.

"The Gutierrez brothers are accused of recruiting these workers with promises of jobs, if they would sign a four-year work contract. Instead, once they arrived in St. Louis, the workers were allegedly beaten, threatened and always reminded that they had to repay their 'smuggling debt', "said Hanaway.

According to the criminal complaint, the Gutierrez brothers hired, smuggled, harbored and transported illegal aliens. Their business, Golden Roofing LLC, is operated out of their homes in St. Louis. The affidavit states that Olivia Zepeda - the Gutierrez brothers' mother who lives in Juventino, Mexico - recruited four workers from Mexico to work for her sons in their roofing business. Zepeda arranged for the four workers to be smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border after they signed contracts indicating that they would work for her sons for four years. Through Zepeda's arrangements, the four workers took a bus to a border town in early July 2006. From there, a smuggler took them across the Rio Grande. Subsequently, Juan and Jenaro Gutierrez traveled to Austin, Texas, to pick up the four unauthorized aliens, and paid a smuggler $4000 per worker, before driving them to St. Louis. Once they arrived here, they were allegedly abused; their movements were restricted; they were continuously threatened and reminded of their smuggling debts. If these workers asked the Gutierrez brothers the balance of their smuggling debts, the brothers' responses regarding the amounts owned were always higher then the previous quotes.

"ICE will investigate employers who egregiously violate immigration laws," said Pete Baird, assistant special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Kansas City. "ICE works closely with U.S Attorney's offices and other law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute employers who exploit illegal alien workers for their own profit motives." Baird oversees the states of Missouri and Kansas.

Charged today are: Jeronimo Gutierrez, 6000 block of Hancock, Berkeley, Mo.; Juan Gutierrez, 9800 block of Treadway, Edmundson, Mo.; and Jenaro Gutierrez, 9300 block of St. Jerome, Edmundson, Mo. Each defendant is charged with one felony violation of smuggling, transporting, and harboring illegal aliens, a violation of Title 8, USC, Section 1324; employing illegal aliens, in violation of Title 8, USC, Section 1324(a); and aiding and abetting such offenses, in violation of Title 18, USC, Section 2.

They were arrested by ICE agents early Wednesday morning, and are expected to appear in federal court later today. ICE also arrested on administrative immigration charges eight illegal aliens who were working for the Gutierrez brothers.

Conviction of Title 18, USC, Section 1324 carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000; employing illegal aliens, under Title 18, USC. Section 1324(a) carries a maximum of six months prison and/or fines up to $3000, per alien.

This case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The charges set forth in a complaint are merely accusations, and each defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.