KANSAS CITY, KAN. – A Lawrence contractor and five other people have been charged with money laundering, bank fraud and harboring undocumented workers, said U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom.
A federal indictment unsealed today alleges they were part of a scheme to convert more than $13 million in payroll checks into cash to pay crews of undocumented workers installing drywall in the Kansas City metro area.
“The indictment alleges the money flowed through an illegal pipeline,” said U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom. “At one end were contractors who wanted cheap labor. At the other end were undocumented workers who needed a job.”
Charged in the case are:
- Keith L. Countess, 55, Lawrence, Kan., owner of Plaster Masters, L.C., a drywall subcontractor for commercial and residential construction projects. The company is located at 619 N. 2nd in Lawrence.
- Marcos Lane Stubbs, 44, who is alleged to have devised the scheme to enable drywall subcontractors to use undocumented workers.
- Luis Felipe Guerrero-Guerrero, 26, who is alleged to have managed crews of workers installing drywall.
- Jose Felipe Hernandez-Calvillo, 39, who is alleged to have managed a crew of workers installing drywall.
- Mauro Papalotzi, 34, who is alleged to have managed crews of workers installing drywall.
- Isaac Gallegos, 35, who is alleged to have allowed the scheme to be operated out of his Boost Mobile telephone store. It was located in the 1300 block of Santa Fe in Olathe, Kan.
The indictment alleges Gallegos and Stubbs first explained to Torres how the scheme would work and how he could make money by becoming a financial intermediary between drywall subcontractors and drywall construction crews made up primarily of undocumented workers.
They told Torres that in order to pay undocumented workers someone had to serve as a financial conduit between the subcontractors and the workers. The subcontractors would contract directly with drywall crews but would use Torres as a financial intermediary.
The scheme involved Torres holding himself out as a drywall subcontractor while in fact his role was merely to receive checks from drywall construction crews, deposit the checks into his own accounts, withdraw cash from his accounts and pay the crew leaders, who in turn paid themselves and the members of the crews. Torres kept 5 percent as his fee.
To get the venture started, Torres borrowed $1,400 from Gallegos, who allowed him to work out of Gallego’s Boost Mobile store in Olathe. Drywall crews were paid weekly. The subcontractor made checks payable to “Jose R. Torres Drywall.” The checks were taken to Torres, usually at the Boost Mobile store. He would deposit the checks. Later, usually on Saturday mornings, he would withdraw cash from his accounts. He would put the cash into envelopes with the crew leaders’ names on them. The crew leaders would pick them up, usually at the Boost Mobile store.
Between October 2012 and June 2014, checks totaling about $13.2 million were deposited into Torres’ accounts at Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
Upon conviction, the crimes carry the following penalties:
- Conspiracy to harbor undocumented workers: A maximum penalty of five years and a fine up to $250,000.
- Harboring undocumented workers: A maximum penalty of five years and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.
- Conspiracy to commit money laundering: A maximum penalty of five years and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.
- Money laundering: A maximum penalty of 20 years and a fine up to $500,000 on each count.
- Conspiracy to commit bank fraud: A maximum penalty of five years and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.
- Bank fraud: A maximum penalty of 30 years and a fine up to $1 million on each count.