The recent dismissal of charges against five Fischer Homes' supervisors accused of allowing illegal immigrants to work on their jobsites leaves unresolved questions about why federal investigators singled out the Crestview Hills, Ky.–based builder—and what other builders' responsibilities are for checking the resident status of subcontractors.
Eleven days before a Nov. 27 trial was scheduled to commence, a federal judge dismissed charges stemming from a raid in May on three Fischer jobsites. Fischer's supervisors were indicted, as were Robert Pratt and Nelson Trejo, whose companies supplied subcontractors to those sites. U.S. assistant attorney Robert McBride requested the dismissal after Trejo, his key witness, fled the country. Calls to McBride's office were not returned.
Fischer's owner and CEO, Henry Fischer, contends that his company, while innocent, “fell victim” to the debate over illegal immigration. The builder maintains that Pratt had agreed contractually to use only legal workers and that Pratt's company alone “profited from ... hiring illegal immigrants.”
Robert Hawksley, Fischer's COO and president, told BUILDER he couldn't discuss the events in detail because prosecutors had informed his company that it was still a “target” of their investigation. Hawksley says builders remain “in limbo” about how closely they must scrutinize the backgrounds of contractors' employees.