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Phoenix Car Wash Managers Indicted

Jude Joffe-Block
Laura Torres with her children and a poster dedicated to her husband in ICE custody.

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Phoenix Car Wash Managers Indicted

Phoenix Car Wash Managers Indicted

Jude Joffe-Block

Laura Torres with her children and a poster dedicated to her husband in ICE custody.

Eleven managers of a Phoenix-area car wash chain appeared in federal court Monday, a fter they were arrested in a major Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation.

Prosecutors allege they knowingly hired unauthorized immigrants and have indicted them on multiple felonies.

The indictment was unsealed Monday afternoon, revealing why Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided 16 business locations connected to the Danny's Family Car Wash chain on Saturday.

According to the indictment, the chain had previously been the target of a federal audit, and in 2011 it was revealed that almost half of its employees were unauthorized to work. 

But federal prosecutors allege that rather than fire those employees permanently, managers rehired them under new identities – and in some cases even helped workers secure fake documents. The indictment alleges that some of the managers were also unauthorized to work.

The indictment names 14 managers but only 11 have been arrested. It also lists 18 corporate entities linked to the car wash chain.

The business owner, Daniel Hendon, is not named on the indictment. 

Cosme Lopez, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said the investigation is still ongoing. He declined to comment on Hendon.

In court on Monday, ten managers entered not guilty pleas and another is scheduled to return to be arraigned on Tuesday. They were shackled and several wore the uniforms they were wearing on the day of their arrest. Nine were released and will be allowed to return to work.

Adriana Lopez, whose husband was one of the arrested managers, said it's not fair the company’s top executives aren't all being charged.

"They know from the start that people that were being hired were being hired under aliases," Lopez said.

Eric Falbe, an attorney for the company reached by phone on Monday morning, would only say that the company is cooperating in the ongoing investigation. 

On Saturday, ICE's Homeland Security Investigations unit rounded up more than 220 car wash staff members, many of whom are in the country illegally.

ICE has maintained that the focus of the operation was a criminal investigation of the company's managers and supervisors, not the immigrant workers.

According to ICE, 179 workers were released on prosecutorial discretion after they were questioned.

Another 30 immigrant workers were placed in deportation proceedings when authorities determined they had a criminal record or had previously been deported.

The immigrant rights advocacy group, Puente, held a press conference Monday morning to denounce the operation for its impact on those workers.

Laura Torres, a 26-year-old mother of two young children, held a sign that read, "Not a crime to work for your family." 

Her husband, Juan Carlos Reynosa, was detained by federal agents when he was working at a Scottsdale car wash location and is now facing deportation. Torres said he has been deported twice before, and said he worked for the car wash for several years.

Torres said she doesn't think it is accurate to say the operation was targeted on supervisors since workers like her husband are now in ICE custody.

"If it was just against the employers, they would have only taken them," Torres said in Spanish.

Jude Joffe-Block was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2010 to 2017.