Contractor sentenced for hiring undocumented workers, threatening them with deportation for going to doctor

A Twin Cities construction contractor was sentenced Wednesday to 270 days in jail and five years of probation for using undocumented workers on his construction crews and threatening to have them deported unless they followed his orders, including working long hours without overtime pay. 

Ricardo Batres, 47, of Crystal, Minnesota pleaded guilty last year to one count of labor trafficking and one count of insurance fraud. 

According to the charges, in 2017, Batres recruited men to work for his company, American Contractors and Associates, LLC to do wood wall framing and sheetrock installation. He knew they were undocumented and told them they would lose their job and be deported if they went to a doctor for injuries suffered on the job. 

In his guilty plea, Batres admitted he did not have adequate worker’s compensation insurance because when he filled out the forms, he marked down that he had no employees, when in fact, he had a number of people working for him. 

The charges say, at one point, a prefabricated wall fell on one of Batres’ employees, seriously injuring him. His coworkers took him to the hospital, but Batres caught up with them and lied to the hospital staff, telling him the accident occurred at his house, rather than at a job site.  As a result, taxpayers and charities footed the bill for the injured worker’s care. 

At the sentencing Wednesday, court advocates read multiple victim impact statements from Batres' employees. Prosecutors also read a statement from the human rights advocacy group, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en La Lucha (CTUL), which has been involved with the case for several months. 

“Batres’ victims, construction workers who only ever wanted to work hard and earn a decent living for themselves and their families, had to move past enormous fear to raise their voices and bring this situation to light.” 

Batres will begin serving his sentence on Thursday.