A Valley-based company that specializes in cleaning LDS temples and churches will pay at least $250,000 to the federal government for hiring undocumented immigrants, its owner says.
Joel Votaw, operating officer and founder of Valley View Building Services, tells New Times the payment will be part of a deal still in the making with the feds. Last week, the federal government filed forfeiture paperwork in the five-year-old case for "a monetary judgment of not less than $250,000," which represents the profit made by the company made from its violations.
The case stems back to a 2010 raid by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office that resulted in five arrests, including that of one undocumented suspect who'd been providing cleaning services at Fort Huachuca, home of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center.
Misdemeanor charges are pending as part of the deal, which won't include any jail time, Votaw says.
"We fully admit we made one bad decision," he says.
Valley View has locations in several Western states and boasts an impressive client list that includes the area's top builders and property owners. One of its specialties is cleaning Mormon temples and churches in Arizona, Utah and other states, its website shows.
The 2010 raid and connection to Fort Huachuca sparked numerous fear-mongering headlines about the "infiltration" of one of our nation's premier intelligence centers. No evidence came up that suggested the suspect, one of the company's managers, was guilty of anything other than trying to earn a living. The man was one of five undocumented suspects arrested and subsequently deported.
Since then, Votaw says he's spent "about $300,000" battling the federal government over the company's liability in the case. Part of his deal with the feds includes a prohibition on saying anything disparaging about the negotiations, he says. But it's clear he'd like to do some disparaging.
"This has made us more cynical and hardened people, unfortunately," Votaw says.
The Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office declined comment on the case. Officials with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office didn't return a message.
Vortaw insists his company did most everything right in its hiring practices, and even used E-Verify. As he sees it, the problem boils down to an order from the feds to fire about 10 percent of his workforce within two weeks. Those were key workers, he explains, and it really hurt Valley View.
The company's solution was to hire the same people back as subcontractors.
"We were like, 'crap,' we need these people," he says. "We did that for about a month and a half" before their lawyer advised them to stop.
Even though the Votaws admitted to the problem up front, the feds "started harassing us with other charges," he says.
"It'll be tough," but the company will survive the forfeiture, he says. They've had to borrow some of the money.
Only the name of the company and Jaime Votaw's name is on the forfeiture paperwork. Joel Votaw says that way, his name shows "totally clean," allowing the company to continue to work on sensitive projects.
Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.