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SANTA ANA, California – The owner of a Rancho Cucamonga-based farm labor recruiting company was sentenced today to 12 months in federal prison for his role in an immigration fraud scheme that illegally charged Mexican nationals thousands of dollars to obtain H-2A work visas and additional money for expenses once they arrived in the United States.

Jorge Vasquez, 60, of Fontana, the owner of H-2A Placement Services, was sentenced by United States District Judge Josephine L. Staton, who also ordered Vasquez to pay $135,389 in restitution. Vasquez pleaded guilty in June 2019 to one count of conspiracy and one count of aiding and abetting fraud in foreign labor contracting.

Vasquez and co-defendant Melquiades Jacinto Lara, 64, of Santa Paula, the owner of J&D Harvesting, which contracted workers to farms in Ventura County, conspired to commit mail fraud, false swearing in immigration matters, and fraud in foreign labor contracting.

The H-2A visa program allows employers to hire foreign, short-term agricultural workers when the employer cannot find suitable workers in the United States. H-2A labor contractors provide foreign workers to farms and generally are responsible for recruiting, transporting and housing the foreign workers. Before the foreign workers can receive visas, several government agencies must certify the need for foreign workers and determine that foreign workers would not adversely impact workers already in the United States.

In addition to provisions designed to protect domestic workers, the H-2A program has rules designed to protect foreign workers from exploitation, including prohibitions from charging the foreign workers for government approvals, equipment needed to perform their jobs, transportation to and from the fields, and costs associated with housing.

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U.S. Department of State

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