BARTOW COUNTY, Ga. — A businessman living in Georgia pleaded guilty to harboring immigrants after officials said he employed and exploited them to fund his lavish lifestyle.
Department of Justice officials said Juan Antonio Perez, 48, who is originally from Mexico, encouraged immigrants in the U.S. illegally to work for his roofing business for below-market rates.
Perez, who officials say came to the U.S. illegally in 1992, has owned Aztec Framing since 2009. The business has offices in Cartersville and Rossville, Georgia, and Hixon, Tennessee.
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Officials said Perez employed immigrants for low wages with no benefits or insurance and he did not pay payroll taxes or Social Security. He built a 7,500-square-foot home to house his employees and also owned other homes where employees lived.
Officials said that despite the fact that he did not report any income, Perez bought more than 30 sports cars and customized trucks.
In 2019, feds showed Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant the fleet of luxury cars, tricked-out trucks and a cache of weapons all seized in a series of raids on homes and businesses Perez owns.
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Former U.S. Attorney Bjay Pak told Channel 2 that Perez’s scheme allowed him to undercut legitimate contractors bidding on jobs for years. He also shielded himself through an elaborate system of shell companies and subcontractors to hide his wealth and evade detection.
“This is a prime example of the ills of the illegal immigration system. You can argue it however you want to, but for the work that we do, this is exactly what we want in an immigration case,” said Nick Annan, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent in Charge.
“The old saying that crime doesn’t pay couldn’t be truer than in this instance. Perez thought his scheme to exploit desperate people looking for work and a better life would go unnoticed, but he was wrong and will now be held accountable,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama.
On July 7, Perez pled guilty to knowingly encouraging and inducing aliens to come to, enter, and reside in the United States for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, and residence in the United States was in violation of law.
Perez will be sentenced in October.
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