Recruitment Agency President That Provided Alien Workers To CNMI Indicted On Fraud Charges

Indictment lists fradulent contracts, illegal collection of fees, illegal deductions in pay, and complete misrepresentation of working enviornment 

By Bryan Manabat

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, March 13, 2017) – A Federal grand jury on Thursday indicted Curtwill Corporation president Arlene Hart on two counts of mail fraud, and three counts of fraud in foreign labor contracting.

Hart is also known as Arlene Silva and Curtwill Corporation, which is doing business as Curtwill Enterprises is a manpower agency that hired alien workers outside the United States for employment inside the U.S. and mailed I-129 CW petitions to U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services’ California Service Center on behalf of the alien workers, according to the indictment.

It stated that Hart knowingly hired alien workers from the Philippines promising that they would be provided work in the CNMI for 40 hours per week at a rate of $6.05 per hour with holiday pay and bonuses, employer-arranged housing, medical and dental care, and transportation to and from the worksite.

The indictment, which was signed by Assistant U.S. Attorney James Benedetto, said recruiters in the Philippines identified and recruited workers to work for Curtwill, and facilitated Hart’s contact with the alien workers.

Hart then spoke personally or by telephone with the alien workers reassuring them that Curtwill’s offer of employment was legitimate, the indictment stated.

It added that Hart and the recruiters then told the workers they had to pay up to 65,000 Philippine pesos or $1,380 in addition to a $750 processing fee for the filing of I-129 CW petitions on their behalf.

“Hart and recruiters operating on Curtwill’s behalf demanded and collected these fees from the alien worker despite the fact that regulations governing the CW-1 program prohibit the employer from seeking reimbursement from the alien worker for any part of the application fee or CNMI Education Funding Fee,” the indictment stated.

After Hart and the recruiters received payment from the workers, Hart mailed I-129 CW petitions to secure CW-1 status for the alien workers via USPS Express Mail to the USCIS California Service center in Laguna Niguel, California.

“Hart submitted one-page contracts purportedly signed by the alien workers to USCIS in support of the petitions for CW-1 status. However the signatures on the contracts were forged, not signed by the workers, and dated prior to the workers arrival in the CNMI.”

The indictment also stated that after Hart mailed the petitions and fraudulent contracts to USCIS, associates in the Philippines summoned the workers to a meeting, attended by Hart, to sign four-page written contracts identifying Curtwill as their employer, and promising work for one year in housekeeping jobs, commencing on the date of the workers departure from the Philippines.

The indictment noted that the four-page contract executed in the Philippines was significantly different from the one-page fraudulent contract submitted to USCIS months earlier.

Relying on the representations of Hart and the signed contract, the workers told consular officers that they wanted to travel to the U.S. to work for Curtwill Corporation.

“After their consular interviews, and based in part upon the workers representations that Curtwill was to be their employer, and the one-page fraudulent employment contracts submitted to USCIS by Curtwill the workers were issued visas to travel to the CNMI.”

But upon arriving in the CNMI, Hart informed the workers that Curtwill would not be their employer, and there were no jobs presently available for them.

Curtwill told the workers they had to wait until work was available or find their own jobs, the indictment stated.

The workers had difficulty finding work or found work for only brief periods. Due to the gaps in their employment, the workers earned less than what they had been promised by Curtwill.

If the workers were able to find legitimate employers on their own, Curtwill required that the secondary employer pay the workers’ wages to Curtwill instead of directly to the workers, the indictment stated.

Curtwill then took deductions from the workers’ pay for application fees, and renewal petitions before paying the workers, which is in violation of federal and CNMI laws and regulations.

In 2014, the CNMI Office of the Attorney General charged Hart, an accountant, for stealing $6,831.66 from her then-employer, Ecosource Insurance.

Hart was sentenced to 11 months imprisonment but this was later reduced by Superior Court Judge Ken Govendo to four months of imprisonment. Her lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Meyer, stated that Hart had made full restitution, was nearly 53 years old, and had never before been convicted of any criminal offense. He said “absent the extraordinary circumstances surrounding this crime, she is not a bad or immoral person and the term of imprisonment has already worked to ensure that she will never again commit such an act.”

In Nov. 2016, the CNMI Department of Labor ordered Curtwill Corporation to pay a sanction fee of $2,000 for failure to post job vacancy announcements online and for failure to submit required documents for 2015 and 2016.

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