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The Grand America Hotel has agreed to pay a nearly $2 million fine because managers had rehired undocumented workers after federal investigators issued a warning in 2011 and 133 employees were fired.
After the warning that followed a yearlong audit, lower and midlevel managers created two temporary employment agencies, and, within days of the warning, the agencies were used as cover to rehire about 30 of those fired workers, according to the U.S. attorney's office for Utah. Another 13 went back to work after a third agency was created.
Grand America Hotels and Resorts, which has properties in Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, California and Idaho, agreed to pay a $1.95 million fine to the Department of Homeland Security and "will not be prosecuted in exchange for full cooperation," the U.S. attorney's office said in a news release.
An attorney for the company, Brett Tolman, said the while hotel and government entered into a "non-prosecution" agreement, top-level executives had not been targeted by the federal probe.
"It's fair to say, at no time were we ever informed or was there ever an indication any of the top executives or owners were the subjects of a criminal investigation," Tolman said, adding that the company had done its own internal investigation and cooperated with federal investigators.
Grand America fired four managers and reprimanded two others as a result.
"We don't believe there is evidence of corporate involvement in the efforts to set up the temporary employment agencies and the rehiring of the undocumented workers," acting U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen said in the news release. "Those individuals who participated in criminal activity will be prosecuted for their conduct."
In September 2012, search warrants were served at Grand America Hotel, the Little America Hotel, an affiliated company and two Salt Lake Valley residences out of which the three temporary employment agencies operated, federal prosecutors said.
Besides the fine, Grand America Hotels has agreed to take measures expected to cost about $500,000 to ensure that only legal immigrants are hired.
Tolman said the large fine appears to be in accord with an Obama administration practice of trying to deter others from illegally hiring undocumented workers.
"Going forward, if this is a message to make sure they are being very vigilant and following these rules," he said, "then that's probably a good thing."
Obtaining workers from temporary employment agencies is a standard practice by hotels that experience large fluctuations in their business, Tolman said.