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 spokeswoman Ruth Corley says 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, she says.
BP contracted with Eagle-SWS, Panama City, to complete the oil cleanup work. According to BP spokeswoman Vani Rao, Eagle-SWS hired Containment Control Inc. (CCI), Hope Mills, N.C., which in turn brought on Lewis Environmental, 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 Environmental did not return calls for comment. Glen Taylor, president of CCI, denied his firm had hired undocumented workers.
Rao says BP was not aware the firms had hired undocumented workers. After the arrests, BP, in coordination with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, asked all 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 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Tampa, says this is the only arrest in connection with the BP cleanup of which she is aware.
“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 [ICE]. 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.”