Business owner charged with identity theft
by Jacques Billeaud - Jul. 8, 2009 12:44 PM
A Brazilian man who owns a granite countertop business is the first business owner in Arizona to be criminally charged in an investigation of suspected employer sanctions violations.
Raphael Libardi, 48, was indicted Tuesday on charges of identity theft, fraudulent schemes and forgery for allegedly using an elderly man's Social Security number to run his business and buy a house and two vehicles. It was not immediately known whether he had a lawyer.
No civil case has been brought against the business owned by Libardi under Arizona's civil law prohibiting businesses from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. The law, intended to lessen the economic incentive for immigrants to sneak into the country, has prompted or contributed to an unknown number of illegal immigrants leaving Arizona for their home countries or other American states.
Although authorities across Arizona have examined several dozen employer sanctions complaints in the 18 months since the law took effect, no civil cases have been brought against businesses, which could have their business licenses suspended or revoked if they are found to have violated the law.
Employees and managers of other businesses have been charged criminally with identity theft for using forged documents or stolen identities to get jobs.
The biggest difficulty cited in bringing civil employer sanctions cases is the requirement that prosecutors prove that a business knew it had hired an illegal immigrant.