14 face criminal charges in raid of car wash chain

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by Jacques Billeaud, Associated Press

Video report by Jared Dillingham

Posted on August 19, 2013 at 4:53 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 19 at 7:02 PM

PHOENIX (AP) -- Ten of the 14 people facing criminal charges after weekend raids of a metro Phoenix car-wash chain and its staffing-service provider have pleaded not guilty.

The 10 entered their pleas at their arraignments in federal court Monday afternoon.

Authorities say one other person will be arraigned later this week and three people haven't been arrested yet.

The raids Saturday at locations associated with Danny's Family Car Wash and staffing-service provider HR Betty resulted in another 30 people being taken into custody for immigration processing because they had past criminal convictions prior orders to leave the country.

Another 179 workers who had no criminal histories and no egregious immigration violations were released from custody within hours of being interviewed by federal authorities.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Fourteen people were arrested on criminal charges in weekend raids of a metro Phoenix car-wash chain and its staffing-service provider.

The raids Saturday at locations associated with Danny's Family Car Wash and staffing-service provider HR Betty resulted in another 30 people being taken into custody for immigration processing because they had past criminal convictions prior orders to leave the country. Another 179 workers who had no criminal histories and no egregious immigration violations were released from custody within hours of being interviewed by federal authorities.

Some of the 14 people arrested on criminal charges are expected to make initial appearances in federal court on Monday afternoon. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said multiple people face charges of criminal immigration fraud, identity theft and financial violations. Details of the allegations against the 14 people were expected to be revealed after indictments in the case are unsealed.

Eric Falbe, general counsel for Danny's Family Car Wash, didn't immediately return a message left Monday. A message left Monday at HR Betty wasn't immediately returned.

The bust by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reflects a new approach by federal authorities in confronting employers suspecting of hiring people who aren't legally in the country.

The approach focuses on auditing employment eligibility documents and making criminal cases against company officials. The focus on criminal cases was made after federal authorities concluded that some violators viewed the previous strategy of seeking only civil penalties as the cost of doing business.

About a third of the 432 people arrested nationally since Oct. 1 in Immigration and Customs Enforcement's worksite enforcement cases were managers.

By contrast, the workplace raids by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office have led to several hundred employees who are living in the U.S. illegally being arrested on criminal ID theft charges under a state law that aims to crack down on illegal hiring. The sheriff's office says it tries to build cases against employers, but only two businesses have had their business licenses suspended since the law took effect in 2008.

Immigrant rights advocates who rallied outside an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office near downtown Phoenix on Monday said the workers were only trying to work to support their families and called for the release of workers who are in custody in immigration cases.

Laura Porren said her husband, Juan Carlos Reynosa, remains in federal immigration custody after he was picked up in the raid. "What I'm asking from immigration (authorities) is to let him go," said Porren, crying as she made her plea. "He is not a criminal. All he wants to do is work for his family."

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