Farms.com Home   News

Former Farm Foreman Pleads Guilty to Extorting H-2A Agricultural Workers and Tax Fraud

Ernesto Garibay Garza, 62, of Alamo, Texas, pleaded guilty to extorting H-2A agricultural workers and tax fraud, U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit announced today.

According to court records, Garza worked as a supervisor and foreman of farm workers at F.D.C., an agricultural services company that operates farms throughout Idaho, including in Glenns Ferry.  F.D.C. employed H-2A agricultural workers each year from approximately March to November.  Between at least 2005 and 2019, and while he served as a supervisor and foreman, Garza was responsible for preparing and submitting payroll timesheets for H-2A workers based upon the number of hours worked.  Garza was also responsible for assigning various tasks and projects to the workers that he supervised.

Between at least 2014 and 2019, Garza charged certain H-2A agricultural workers a flat fee to work at F.D.C. under the H-2A program, with the fee ranging from approximately $750 to $2,500.  Garza charged the fees without F.D.C.’s knowledge or approval, and the H-2A agricultural workers paid the fees to Garza each year because they feared that they would be fired or not allowed to return to F.D.C. under the H-2A program in future years if they did not pay.  Garza was not permitted to request or collect such fees under H-2A agricultural worker rules and regulations. 

Between 2013 and 2019, Garza also deposited approximately $493,153 in unreported income into his personal bank accounts, in part, from the extortion described above as well as a separate scheme to defraud the farm.  Garza did not disclose the additional income on his tax return for the years 2013 through 2019, which resulted in false Form 1040 tax returns being prepared and filed. 

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services, the H-2A program allows U.S. employers who meet certain requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs that cannot otherwise be filled because there are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the work.

Garza is scheduled to be sentenced on July 18, 2024.  He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.  A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. 

U.S. Attorney Hurwit commended the work of Idaho State Police and Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, which led to the charges.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean Mazorol and Robert Firpo are prosecuting the case.

Source : justice.gov

Trending Video

Developments in Ag - Innovation Campus

Video: Developments in Ag - Innovation Campus

A fascinating development in the agricultural industry.