CHICAGO (June 1) – A Filipino couple, who owned a health care agency, will be facing a maximum of 215 years in prison and a fine of $10,750,000 or “twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from the offenses, which ever is greatest” after changing their plea from not guilty to “guilty to Count 1 of the indictment” for allegedly knowingly hiring the services of illegal aliens, mostly from the Philippines.
Their agency manager has not decided whether to follow the cue taken by Wilfredo Tiongco Ngo, 51, and his wife, Maria Teresa Lamayo Ngo, 49, co-owners of A-Plus Planning Services in Orange County in California.
Because the Ngo’s are both Filipino citizens, it was not known if the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles, California was advised by the U.S. immigration authorities of their arrest and their right to seek help from the Philippine Consulate as mandated by the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of which both the Philippines and the United States are signatories.
The Ngo’s are scheduled for sentencing at 1:30 p.m. on September 21, 2009 by Judge David O. Carter of the United States District Court of Central District of California in Los Angeles.
Maria Teresa Lamayo Ngo signed a plea agreement on April 13, 2009 while her husband, Wilfredo Tiongco Ngo, signed a plea agreement on April 28, 2009.
Their co-accused, Gicela Sarabia, 43, has not yet copped a plea.
The Ngo couple was charged with a four-count indictment returned in August last year, charging them with inducing aliens to reside in the United States; knowingly employing illegal aliens; knowingly harboring illegal aliens; and counseling persons to engage in marriage fraud.
Sarabia was charged with inducing aliens to reside in the U.S. and knowingly hiring illegal aliens.
A-Plus Senior Planning Services is a private health care agency that provides basic care to the elderly in assisted-living facilities in Orange County since January 2005. It has 200 employes, half of them are said to be undocumented.
It has 65 employees, 20 with non-immigrant visas, with denied political asylum, engaged in fraudulent sham marriage or had been previously ordered deported.
The agency was originally named Better Care Solutions. When the company was audited, it changed its name to A-Plus Senior Planning Services.
When they were arraigned by US Magistrate Judge Marc L. Goldman last August 25, 2008, the Ngo’s and Sarabia pleaded not guilty of the charges against them.
In the 13-page plea agreement, for the Ngo couple, in order for them to plead guilty of count one for violation of “Title 8, U.S. Code, Sec. 1324 (a) (1) (A) (iv), “the following must be true: 1) there was an alien; 2) defendant encouraged or induced that alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States in violation of law; and 3) defendant knew or was in reckless disregard of the fact that that alien’s coming to, entry into, or residence in the United States would be a violation of the law.”
The maximum sentence that the court imposes for violation of Title 8 for each “alien in respect to whom such a violation occurs, is: five years imprisonment; three-year period of supervised release; a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from the offense, whichever is the greatest; and mandatory special assessment of $100.”
The agreement said because the violation involves 43 aliens, the couple is going to be sentenced to 215 years imprisonment; three year supervised release; a fine of $10,750,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from the offense, whichever is greatest; and a mandatory special assessment of $4,300.
The agreement was agreed and accepted by Mieke I. Biesheuvel, Assistant U.S. Attorney on behalf of Thomas P. O’Brien, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, and Robert A. Van Hoy, counsel for defendant Maria Teresa Lamayo Ngo, and Mark W. Fredrick, counsel for Wilfredo Tiongco Ngo. Sarabia was said to have overstayed her US non-immigrant visa. While the Ngo’s reportedly entered into sham marriages.
The alleged illegal activity of A-Plus, formerly known as Better Care Solutions, was found out when two Filipino caregivers filed unemployment claims in July and October of 2006 with the California Employment Development Division.
Better Care Solutions was later discovered not paying unemployment insurance from 2004 to 2007, employment-training taxes, disability insurance and personal income (state) tax, which resulted in two separate tax liens totaling $124,000.
When interviewed by U.S. immigration agents, Mr. Ngo said what he did was a “cultural thing. He wanted his people to eat and send money to their families in the Philippines. We are not harboring terrorists here.”