Dorchester Co. man sentenced to probation, ordered to pay fines for federal visa fraud
BALTIMORE, Md. – A Dorchester County man has been sentenced for unlawful employment of undocumented workers.
50-year-old Phillip “Jamie” Harrington III was sentenced by a U.S. District Court Judge to one year of probation, to pay a $10,000 fine, a $5,000 special assessment, and to perform 100 hours of community service for unlawful employment of undocumented workers. The Judge also sentenced Harrington’s company, Capt. Phip’s Seafood Inc., to three years of probation and to pay a $240,000 fine for visa fraud related to the employment of temporary workers employed at Harrington companies.
In addition, the Judge ordered Harrington and Capt. Phip’s Seafood to participate in a verification program for their employees and were debarred from participating in the H-2B visa program.
Philip J. Harrington, Jr., was Captain Phip’s owner, president, and sole director until his death on February 13, 2018. Since March 6, 2019, Capt. Phip’s has been owned and operation by Philip Harrington’s son, 50-year-old Philip J. “Jamie” Harrington III. Capt. Phils produces and distributes ice as well as processing seafood. For over a decade, Capt. Phip’s has participated in the H-2B work visa program, which obtains temporary foreign workers to fill seasonal positions.
According to the guilty plea, from 2013 to 2018, Captain Phip’s Seafood, Inc., routinely sought prevailing wage determinations for multiple job descriptions, then filed petitions for H-2B visas only for the jobs with the lowest wage, regardless of the actual work duties of the employees. The H-2B visa program is a temporary, non-agricultural worker program in which employers can seek temporary authorization for foreign workers to legally enter and work in the U.S.
To obtain an H-2B Visa, the U.S. Department of Labor must ensure that the positions have been advertised to U.S.-based workers and assign the appropriate wage to be paid based on the job description.
As stated in the plea agreement, Capt. Phip’s willfully submitted false and inaccurate job descriptions in order to obtain lower wages for its foreign workers. The company’s omissions regarding the full scope of the job duties resulted in the DOL approving the company to lay lower wages than it would have been authorized if Capt. Phip’s had provided truthful information.
Between roughly 2013 and 2018, Capt. Phip’s filed petitions for H-2B visas for approximately 142 nonimmigrant workers. We’re told Capt. Phip’s officers involved in the process were aware that the nonimmigrant workers were intended to be employed to engage in work beyond the job descriptions authorized by the workers’ visas. The company reportedly realized unlawful benefits through the use of fraudulently low prevailing wages between April 2013 to December 2018, although the exact amount can’t be determined. The company has not participated in the H-2B visa program since at least January 2019.
Jamie Harrington is also the owner and operator of multiple other businesses involving the production and distribution of ice as well as processing of seafood, rental machinery, housing development, oyster farming, and other ventures. These include Easton Ice, Woodfield Ice, PJH Oyster, Two Sons R.S., LLC, P&N Farms, and others.
Harrington admitted in his plea agreement that, beginning in 2013 and through at least August 9, 2018, he engaged in a pattern and practice of hiring and employing workers without lawful immigration status. Most of the unauthorized workers were Mexican citizens and nationals. Some of the undocumented workers he employed entered the U.S. lawfully and overstayed their visas; others never had lawful status to be present in the U.S.
We’re told payroll and other records show that approximately 89 undocumented workers were employed by Harrington companies between these years, and Harrington continued to employ several of the workers even after he knew that they had been placed into removal proceedings by immigration officials.