A 40-year-old Ventura County businessman pleaded guilty Wednesday in Santa Ana for his part in a scheme to rip off Mexican immigrants in the U.S. on work visas.
Ricardo Mendoza Oseguera, the owner of Discoteca Mi Pueblito, a music and convenience shop in Santa Paula, pleaded guilty to operating an unlicensed money transmitting business.
Oseguera, who faces six to 18 months in federal prison, is scheduled to be sentenced July 10 by U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton.
Co-defendant Melquiades Jacinto Lara, 64, of Santa Paula, pleaded guilty and was sentenced last April to six months in federal prison and ordered to pay $135,388 in restitution, according to court records. Lara was the owner of J&D Harvesting, which hired workers to Ventura County farms.
Another co-defendant, Fontana resident Jorge Vasquez, 60, entered a guilty plea a year ago and is set to be sentenced April 10. Vasquez is the owner of H-2A Placement Services, a recruiting company for farm workers based in Rancho Cucamonga.
Under the scheme, which operated from June 2009 through March 2015, Lara issued vouchers to J&D Harvesting workers that could only be cashed at Oseguera’s store, according to federal prosecutors, who said Oseguera would pay cash to the workers and take a 1% service fee.
Oseguera would return the vouchers to Jacinto, who would reimburse Oseguera. The defendant exchanged about 991 vouchers totaling $4.7 million, according to the plea agreement.
The workers were hired through a visa program for agriculture when there aren’t enough domestic workers available. The program prohibits charging various fees to the workers.
Vasquez would go to Mexico to recruit the workers, some of whom were charged as much as $3,000 to get the work visas, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The workers weren’t told they would be charged for housing, food and transportation when they paid up for the visas, prosecutors said.
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