by Lisa Sorg
For the past five years, the Lopez Brothers' framing business was very profitable—but apparently not profitable enough. The owners of J&A Framing Company in Durham tried to keep their costs down by hiring cheap labor: undocumented immigrants who earned less than minimum wage and who paid the brothers rent to live in squalid trailers on company property.
Now Jose Alfredo Lopez-Ponce, known as Jose Antonio, and Juan Antonio Lopez-Ponce, known as Antonio Lopez, have been sentenced to prison on charges of "conspiring to harbor illegal aliens" whom they hired to work at the business, the U.S. Department of Justice announced today. Read the press release: Lopez_sentencing.pdf
Both men pled guilty to the federal charges earlier this year.
Antonio Lopez was sentenced to three years in prison, two years of supervised release and was ordered to pay a $45,000 fine.
Jose Antonio received a 26-month prison sentence, two years' supervised release and was fined $25,000.
In addition, the brothers agreed to pay the U.S. government $250,000 as criminal forfeiture.
In the early 1980s, the brothers entered the U.S. illegally, but later married Americans and became naturalized citizens, according to court documents. By the mid-2000s, their framing business had become very profitable and had secured contracts with large home builders. (The builders were not named in today's announcement.)
They hired smugglers, or coyotes, to truck immigrants from their home town in Mexico to North Carolina.
According to court documents, the brothers also falsified tax forms and contracts in order to avoid paying the Internal Revenue Service.
As for the workers, they were jailed on immigration violations; some were deported, while others remained in detention centers.
Read the Indy's previous coverage:
"Brothers accused of smuggling immigrants appear in court"