Miss. construction firm owner jailed for using illegal immigrants

Published 4:23 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A Greenville construction company owner has been arrested on charges he used dozens of illegal immigrants to work on bridges and other critical infrastructure projects in at least three states.

Jose S. Gonzalez, 32, was taken into custody late last week at his Greenville office by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Gonzalez owns Greenville-based Tarrasco Steel Co. and allegedly hired undocumented workers from Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico to work on projects across the Gulf Coast region.

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Gonzalez provided steel rebar, workers and installation services to major highway bridge construction projects, according to officials involved in the investigation.

In March, agents raided several work sites and found illegal workers on the Mississippi-Arkansas bridge near Greenville; the U.S. 90 bridge in Gulfport; the Huey P. Long bridge in Jefferson Parish, La.; the Interstate 40 seismic retro fit in Memphis; and the Louisiana 1 bridge in Leeville, La.

At least 77 illegal workers were arrested during the raids, including 26 Tarrasco Steel employees. The remaining were employees of other construction companies at the sites. The immigration agency said in a statement that employees allegedly did not have the proper welding certifications.

During the investigation, authorities said they learned that the majority of Tarrasco Steel employees were using unauthorized Social Security numbers for employment.

Gonzalez was indicted on July 29 and $457,368 was seized from Tarrasco accounts, according to the statement.