PA company issued record fine of $95 million for using illegal immigrant workers

PHILADELPHIA — A Pennsylvania tree-trimming company was ordered to pay a fine of $95 million — the largest fine against a company for hiring immigrants who didn’t have permission to work in the U.S., according to federal officials quoted in a Wall Street Journal report.

Asplundh Tree Expert of Willow Grove pleaded guilty in a Philadelphia federal court Thursday to illegally hiring the immigrants. Some of the immigrants were in the U.S. illegally; none had authorization to work in the country, according to court documents.

A federal judge ordered the company to pay $80 million and adhere to an Administrative Compliance Agreement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

The details of the agreement weren’t made public.

In a separate civil settlement, ICE said, the company agreed to pay $15 million related to its violation of immigration law.

ICE said Asplundh decentralized hiring so the company’s senior management could “remain willfully blind” as lower-level mangers hired and rehired workers they knew weren’t allowed to work in the U.S. The agency also said the lower-level managers knowingly accepted false or fake identification documents.

In a statement posted on the company’s website earlier this month, Chairman and CEO Scott Asplundh said the company took “immediate corrective action” after being told of the federal investigation in 2015. The company declined to comment further to the Wall Street Journal on Friday.