After receiving tips, Bay County, Fla., Sheriff’s deputies arrested 11 undocumented workers at the Panama City Marina on May 19, 2010, for using stolen social security numbers to obtain employment cleaning up the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Bay County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Ruth Corley indicates BP subcontractors hired the men, who most recently came from South Carolina, Mississippi and other parts of Florida. The men are citizens of Nicaragua, Honduras, Ecuador and Bolivia.
BP contracted with Eagle-SWS of Panama City to complete the oil clean-up work. According to BP spokesperson Vani Rao, Eagle-SWS hired CCI (Containment Control Inc.) of Hope Mills, N.C., which in turn brought on Lewis Environmental of Royersford, Pa., to work on the project.
“From what we can determine, those companies hired these people that we determined were illegal aliens,” Corley says.
Eagle-SWS and Lewis did not return calls for comment. Glen Taylor, president of CCI, denied his firm had hired undocumented workers.
Rao says that BP was not aware the firms had hired undocumented workers. After the arrests, BP, in coordination with the Bay County Sheriff, asked all of its subcontractors to go through a vetting process.
“We expect all subcontractors to follow all regulations,” Rao says. “They have now verified that all employees are from Florida and have legal work permits.”
The sheriff’s office has issued eight more warrants in connection with the incident. The investigation is ongoing, and Corley expects additional charges and arrests.
Danielle Bennett, a public affairs officer with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Tampa, says this is the only arrest she is aware of connected to the BP cleanup.
“The Bay County Sheriff's Office arrested 11 people and charged them with state felony offenses related to their identification,” Bennett says in a written statement. “The sheriff's office then contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The 11 people lack lawful immigration status. They are currently in the state’s criminal custody. If and when they are released, ICE will proceed in accordance with our priorities.”