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South Dakota Loggers Hired Illegal Workers

RAPID CITY, S.D. (CN) - Two South Dakota companies admitted using sneaky tactics to employ undocumented workers in $2.5 million worth of federal projects in the Black Hills National Forest.

Uncle Sam sued Aurelio Munoz-Escalante dba Black Hills Thinning and Sergio Munoz-Escalante dba SM Logging and Services, on Nov. 7, in Federal Court. Both have pleaded guilty to submitting false invoices, the government says.

The defendants got the contracts through submitting low bids, knowing they would pay the undocumented workers less than prevailing wage and short them for overtime and benefits.

They hid the practice by issuing paychecks to fictitious names, "the proceeds of which were to be divided among several undocumented workers," according to the complaint.

The complaint cites more than 60 invoices the U.S. Forest Service paid the defendants from 2007 to 2012.

Uncle Sam wants the $2.5 million back, and damages for fraud, unjust enrichment, payment by mistake and False Claims Act violations.

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