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Employers indicted on charges of immigrant smuggling

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Two brothers who operated J&A Framing and Carpentry have been indicted on several charges, including smuggling immigrants whom they employed at the Durham-based business.

A grand jury on Dec. 15 indicted Juan Antonio Lopez Ponce and Jose Alfredo Lopez Ponce, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorneys office in Raleigh. The Lopez brothers allegedly hired coyotes, or smugglers, to bring undocumented immigrants into the U.S. to work for the business. The employers also allegedly failed to pay employment taxes while paying the immigrants less than minimum wage. In addition, the Lopez brothers allegedly charged the workers rent for "spartan" accommodations.

A month ago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided three work sites in Cary, Apex and Chapel Hill and arrested 18 workers. Eight of those arrested pleaded guilty to misdemeanor immigration-related charges and served 30 days in a detention center in Louisburg. They are free on bond pending immigration hearings.

The 10 remaining men are in detention awaiting their indictments and court hearings.

Jose Lopez' daughter, Laura Lopez, told the Indy that "my father did not do what they are saying he did. His workers were not working as slaves and the attorneys will find the opposite is true. He helped his workers."

The Lopez brothers entered the U.S. illegally in the 1980s, according to the U.S. Attorney, but later married Americans and became naturalized citizens.

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