Georgia Construction Company Raided, Owner Accused of Underpaying Undocumented Immigrants

During a state and federal raid on several North Georgia homes on Tuesday, agents seized documents, high-priced vehicles, and other property from homes and businesses in Cartersville, Rossville, and Hixson, Tenn.

The homes belonged to Juan Antonio Perez, the owner of Aztec Framing and Aztec Builders, who authorities said has made millions of extra dollars by underpaying the undocumented immigrants he employs and failing to withhold federal payroll and Social Security taxes, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Perez was also arrested on Tuesday.

Perez is also accused by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of laundering money made illegally at the expense of his employees to support an incredibly lavish lifestyle.

Perez immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico illegally and had been paying American friends to put his utility bills and registered cars in their names. Perez and his family lived in a compound complete with a wall and armed guards.

Taking advantage of the vulnerability of undocumented workers is nothing new, especially in areas like Texas. Some of the biggest American household names have been caught doing this, including Target and H-E-B.

Most undocumented workers are no strangers to unpaid wages or working ridiculous hours for less than minimum wage. The Equal Justice Center often takes on court cases for dozens of undocumented workers at a time.

“The fact that they’re in the shadows makes them vulnerable,” Bill Beardall, executive director of the Equal Justice Center, told the Texas Tribune.

The Pew Research Center estimates that about 11.3 million people are currently living in the U.S. without authorization, down from a peak of 12.2 million in 2007. About 8 million of them have jobs, making up 5 percent of the U.S. workforce, figures that have remained more or less steady for the past decade.