A North Georgia construction company owner has been indicted on charges that his company hired illegal aliens and paid them below-market wages, according to a press release by U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.
Juan Antonio Perez, 46, of Rydal, Georgia, was indicted on charges that his construction company, Aztec Framing, which operated in Northwest Georgia and East Tennessee, profited by employing illegal aliens, the press release said. He has also been charged with being an illegal alien in possession of 14 firearms. Federal law prohibits illegal aliens from possessing firearms.
Southern Region Communications Director Bryan D. Cox told Chattanooga’s NewsChannel 9 that agents served search warrants in six locations across North Georgia and East Tennessee. Federal records say the owner of the business, along with his homes and other businesses, were under investigation.
According to a complaint filed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent James Rivas, in one payroll account, Perez withdrew about $5.8 million from June through January, the Chattanooga Times Free Press said.
“Perez not only broke the law by allegedly hiring illegal aliens at below-market wages and paying no taxes, he had a large assortment of weapons including shotguns and pistols that he had acquired through various means other than buying them himself,” Pak said in his press release.
Nick S. Annan, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations-Atlanta, said, “Individuals, like Mr. Perez, who flagrantly violate federal law to give themselves an unfair business advantage are cheating both law-abiding employers and employees exploited by these unfair and illegal labor practices.”
According to Pak, the indictment, and other information presented in court: Perez allegedly came to the United States illegally in 1992. He has lived in Bartow County, Georgia, and has operated Aztec Framing at least since 2009. Aztec Framing has offices in Cartersville and Rossville, Georgia, and Hixson, Tennessee.
Perez allegedly employed illegal aliens at below-market rates, provided no benefits or insurance, and did not pay payroll taxes or Social Security, Pak said. Perez built his family a 7,500-square-foot house, bought other houses where he allowed some of his employees to live, and purchased more than 50 sports cars and heavily customized trucks. Yet, as of April, the Georgia Department of Labor had no record of Perez reporting any income, the press release said. Perez was also known to collect firearms, and was found to have 14 in his home when agents searched it on April 30.
Perez was indicted by a federal grand jury on Tuesday, Pak said. He will be arraigned at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, May 13, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Walter E. Johnson.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.