July 30, 2015
Last week, the Tinian Dynasty Casino and Hotel agreed to pay $3.04 million in a non-forfeiture settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The U.S. Treasury fined the casino for $75 million for violations of money laundering policies. The settlement was not even 10% of the total fine. Perhaps HKE can use some of the millions that they saved by reaching a meager settlement agreement to make the employees that it scammed whole again.
The settlement agreement requires that the Tinian Dynasty be placed under a Supervision Period of three years where it must comply with laws. The agreement states that the Tinian Dynasty Casino must "Commit no crimes under the federal laws of the United States subsequent to the execution of this agreement."
Do these include labor laws? The business continues to fail to pay its employees in a timely manner. Furthermore, it has purposelessly defrauded and illegally terminated employees without consequences.
July 23, 2015 HKE/US Settlement Agreement:
The illegal activities of the casino and hotel, which included money laundering, falsification of records, and non-payment of employees' wages, was a primary reason that the USCIS listed for denial of renewal of foreign workers' CW-1 permits. The USCIS determined that the business was not a 'legitimate' business because of illegal activities. No business deemed to be 'not legitimate' can hire foreign workers.
On July 26, 2013 USCIS send an Intent to Revoke notice to the Hong Kong Entertainment OVS INV LTD c/o the Tinian Hotel and Casino stating their their ability to hire foreign workers was in jeopardy. The letter cited the fact that the U.S. Department of labor fined them $191,400 for nonpayment of wages and overtime wages to employees. USCIS noted that the business regularly failed to pay employees in a timely manner. The letter stated that the fact that the business violated regulatory requirements means that they are not a legitimate business and cannot hire CW-1 workers. That letter and its message was concealed from the employees who had no idea that their status could change.
A letter dated December 8, 2014 the HKE received a letter from USCIS denying petitions based on illegal activity - multiple violations of the Bank Secrecy Act over the span of a four-year period. The letter also cited multiple violations of the casino in failing to file Currency Transaction Reports failure to file a Suspicious Activity Report and failure to maintain an effective money laundering program. The list of violations in the letter were based on the lawsuit filed by the U.S. against the casino and some of its top managers. The letter's message was concealed from employees.
Not until the Saipan newspapers and blogs wrote about the mass denial of CW-1 permits for Tinian Dynasty employees did the employees even know that their jobs were in jeopardy and their lives would drastically change. They were left without legal status to work and live in the CNMI, without jobs and facing a three-year bar to return to the CNMI to work.
In addition to numerous USCIS Notices of "Intent to Revoke", there were numerous other notices sent to the employer from USCIS. USCIS "Notices of Intent to Deny" dated October 30, 2012, December 18, 2012, June 26, 2013, February 5, 2014 and July 2, 2014 were issued to HKE, but were not disclosed to the employees. The notices stated that employees' CW-1 petitions were denied.
(Link to files)
The business blatantly disregarded the well-being of its employees by purposely and maliciously allowing foreign workers to think that their CW-1 visas were being processed. Never did Tinian Dynasty warn their employees that their status was in jeopardy. If they had, the workers could have taken steps to maintain legal status, such as transferring to a legitimate employer. They were purposely denied this opportunity because the self-serving employer wanted to keep its doors open to profit off of their backs.
The Tinian Dynasty Casino and Hotel knew that the employees depended on them to process their CW-1 permits to keep their status legal. They also knew that the employees earn such low wages that they are unlikely to be able to pursue a case against them, unlikely to be able to afford a ticket to their homelands, unlikely to be able to get help since they are isolated on far-away island.
Odds Stacked Against the Foreign Worker
The Tinian Dynasty and other CNMI employers have taken advantage of the fact that USCIS reports the status of CW-1 annual renewals only to the employer. USCIS fails to send duplicate updates or notices to the employee. This system makes no sense. It allows any unscrupulous employer to take advantage of the employee's ignorance as to the status of their own permit. This procedure must be changed so that USCIS must notify both the employer and the employee concerning the processing of permits.
Also convenient for this and other unscrupulous employers, is the fact that the only source of free assistance for foreign workers, the Federal Ombudsman Office was closed by the U.S. Government. The office offered proactive, free assistance to foreign workers and was one of the busiest offices in the CNMI. The closure has had severe detrimental consequences for the many indigent foreign workers since there us no other non governmental agency in existence in the CNMI where the abused can seek justice.
Foreign workers who are employed by any business in the CNMI are taking a risk and playing a game of chance because of the callous attitude exhibited towards the foreign workers and the broken immigration system. Too often they are regarded as disposable, replaceable labor units rather than as human beings by businesses and the government. This is a system ripe for reform.
Throughout the years, the Tinian Dynasty Casino and Hotel has earned the rank at the top of the list of the CNMI's most despicable and unethical employers. The Tinian Dynasty's foreign workers past and present who have been scammed and cheated by their employer deserve justice and legal status and should be made whole.
More to follow