Founded in 1985 , the eponymously named Michael Bianco Inc ,89 West Rodney French Blvd, New Bedford, Ma. 02744 ( 47 miles south of Boston) is an American manufacturer of high quality leather goods they also make military equipment, airvests, medipacs etc., They boast of being contract manufacturing for retailers such as Coach Inc. of New York and Stratham, N.H.-based Timberland Co. e.g Leather Duffel set US$600 for Leather Bags in pic.
Apparently on Feb. 11, 2002: The Social Security Administration (SSA) contacted MBI about fraudulent or invalid Social Security numbers. Of the 83 employees, 23 percent have deficient payroll information. MBI failed to respond to the SSA letter or enquiries.
On Feb. 1, 2005: MBI reports having 151 employees. The SSA finds problems with 36 employee records; four had children's Social Security numbers and three had numbers belonging to dead people. In March, the SSA sent a letter about the irregularities.
March 31, 2005: MBI responds, submitting 326 payroll records. The SSA found 142 of those, or 44 %, deficient.
On Feb. 2, 2006: The SSA finds that 301, or 58 percent, of the 521 payroll records MBI submitted were deficient. Of the problem records, 33 belonged to adolescents, and 27 belonged to the dead.
On Aug. 10, 2006: The military awards MBI a $25 million contract for "load carrying systems."
Sept. 7, 2006: A female undercover ICE agent poses as "Yolanda Ramos-Mendez," an undocumented worker from Mexico seeking a job, and meets with MBI payroll manager Ana Figueroa, who allegedly advises the agent to get false identification. Another floor supervisor sends the agent to Luis Torres at the Aries Record Shop. The agent pays Torres $120 for a green card and Social Security card. The same day, the agent meets two undocumented workers from Honduras looking for jobs at MBI. 2 days later after a sewing test she gets a job.
Feb. 1, 2007: A federal agent watches 527 MBI employees arrive at work and recognizes several suspected undocumented workers. On about the same day, MBI submits payroll records for 646 employees. The SSA finds 66 % are deficient. More details here.
The factory was raided on Tuesday 6th March and 300 (out of 500 total workers) people were arrested by Homeland Security and Immigration and Custom Enforcement. It appears that 240 were flown to Texas and will probably be deported.
90 people were flown from Devens Air Force base to a detention center in Harlingen, Texas, on Wednesday and 116 others were flown to Albuquerque, N.M., on Thursday. See AP story for problems of dealing with mothers / children, providing welfare.
Factory owner Francesco Insolia and 4 managers, Ana Figueroa, Dilia Costa, Gloria Melo and Luis Torres were arrested for allegedly running a sweatshop, and a fifth person was charged with helping workers get fake identification. It is claimed the had dark dingy working conditions and faced onerous fines, such as a $20 charge for talking while working and spending more than two minutes in the bathroom. Pay was $7 to $7.50 per hour .
The ICE released a complete run down of the events which included :
Following the arrests, criminal complaints were unsealed today charging MBI owner Francesco Insolia, 50, of 3 Country Club Circle, Pembroke, Massachusetts (also the address of Leather Bags an online leather bag store) ; payroll manager Ana Figueroa, 40, of 150 Thompson Street, New Bedford; plant manager, Dilia Costa, 55, of 43 Sherman Street, New Bedford; and office manager Gloria Melo, 41, of 135 Sprague Street, Fall River, with conspiring to encourage or induce illegal aliens to reside in the United States, and conspiring to hire illegal aliens. Luis Torres, 45, of 500 South Second Street, New Bedford, was charged in a separate complaint with the knowing transfer of fraudulent identification documents. The defendants will appear in federal court today before a U.S. Magistrate Judge.
There is more detail on the charges, possible penalties here.
The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) said on Thursday it was suspending the company from bidding on future military contracts (they have been supplying since 2004) , but no changes would be made to the firm's current $83.6 million contract.
One contract for US$32.3 Mn is for a Modular Lightweight Load Carrying Equipment (MOLLE) for the Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia. Michael Bianco is scheduled to deliver the equipment by August 2007.
Incidentally this extract from voting records is of interest..
NEW BEDFORD, MA Political Contributions by Individuals
Insolia, Francesco (Michael Bianco/Owner), (Zip code: 02746) $250 to BARNEY FRANK FOR CONGRESS COMMITTEE on 08/25/04 Kalisz, Frederick (New Bedford/Mayor), ... Barmey is a democrat and has represented 4th Mass. since 1981 , he describes himself " I'm a left - handed gay Jew I've never felt, automatically, a member of any majority." he is chairman of the chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee supports same sex marriages, and is opposed to internet gambling -"Adults are entitled to do with their money what they want to do." he said confusingly on May 15th 2006. Evidently a man who likes it both ways.
This was evidently a mammoth and well prepared raid ... Mr. Chadbourne, Boston-based field Director of Apprehension, Detention & Removal for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said it took about a month to prepare the Devens area before the raid. His department is a section of the federal Department of Homeland Security.
About 700 agents were called from all over the country to complete what was the fourth largest such raid conducted in the country, he said. He also said about 60 percent of those arrested were from Guatemala. The second largest group was from El Salvador, followed by Brazilians. The women outnumbered men arrested 2-to-1.
There is a Forum on the raid by Americans for Legal Immigration.