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|Posted Wednesday, March 7, 2007
|Events that lead to Tuesday massive and unprecedented
immigration raid in the City of New Bedford
The following time line details numerous events leading up to yesterday's raid at
Michael Bianco Inc. in New Bedford:
- In 1985: Francesco Insolia establishes Michael Bianco Inc., producing leather goods,
handbags and luggage.
- 2001-2002: MBI employs about 85 people and begins bidding for Department of Defense
|A woman collapsed on the sidewalk, in front of Francesco Insolia.
- Feb. 11, 2002: The Social Security Administration (SSA) contacts MBI about fraudulent or
invalid Social Security numbers. Of the 83 employees, 23 percent have deficient payroll
information. MBI does not respond to the letter.
- 2003: The company has acquired $10 million in contracts, including emergency survival
- Feb. 5, 2003: The SSA contacts MBI again. Of the 85 employees, 13 percent had deficient
records. MBI does not respond.
- Feb. 3, 2004: The SSA finds problems with the records of five of the 85 MBI employees.
MBI does not respond.
- 2004: Mr. Insolia expands his workforce to about 325 after receiving an $82 million
military contract to produce backpacks.
- Feb. 1, 2005: MBI reports having 151 employees. The SSA finds problems with 36 employee
records; four had children's Social Security numbers and three had numbers belonging to
dead people. In March, the SSA sent a letter about the irregularities.
- March 31, 2005: MBI responds, submitting 326 payroll records. The SSA found 142 of
those, or 44 percent, deficient.
- April 12, 2005: MBI gets another backpack contract, for $36 million. December 2005:
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids a New Bedford business near MBI. Plant
manager Dilia Costa announces over a loudspeaker that all employees can leave the
building. About 75 do, with some hiding in cars and others in boxes on MBI's third floor.
- Feb. 2, 2006: The SSA finds that 301, or 58 percent, of the 521 payroll records MBI
submitted were deficient. Of the problem records, 33 belonged to adolescents, and 27
belonged to the dead.
- Feb. 8, 2006: MBI receives a $32 million military backpack contract.
- May 2006: An MBI employee contacts federal authorities, agreeing to testify that Mr.
Insolia and his managers knew they had workers using counterfeit green cards and Social
Security cards. Federal authorities check the license plates of the cars in MBI's lot and
find 11 plates belonging to suspected undocumented workers.
- July 27, 2006: New Bedford police stop a man who said he bought a fraudulent green card
and Social Security card from Luis Torres, an employee at the Aries Record Shop.
Authorities determine Mr. Torres is from Mexico and pleaded guilty to forgery in New York
- Aug. 10, 2006: The military awards MBI a $25 million contract for "load carrying
- Aug. 18, 2006: State police pull a woman over for a traffic violation. She has fake
identity cards and says she has worked for MBI since February.
- Sept. 7, 2006: A female undercover ICE agent poses as "Yolanda Ramos-Mendez,"
an undocumented worker from Mexico seeking a job, and meets with MBI payroll manager Ana
Figueroa, who allegedly advises the agent to get false identification. Another floor
supervisor sends the agent to Luis Torres at the Aries Record Shop. The agent pays Torres
$120 for a green card and Social Security card. The same day, the agent meets two
undocumented workers from Honduras looking for jobs at MBI.
- Sept. 9, 2006: The agent takes a sewing test at MBI and begins working there two days
- Sept. 13, 2006: Plant manager Dilia Costa promised to give the agent's family work when
they arrive from Mexico. The agent meets at least seven illegal employees.
- Sept. 14, 2006: Office manager Gloria Melo says she is fine with the agent's illegal
status. In a tape-recorded meeting, Mr. Insolia gives the agent a $150 pay advance. When
she says she has no papers, he replies in Spanish that "everyone has papers" and
says some of his employees spent as much as $6,000 to leave Guatemala and Honduras. The
agent leaves MBI and does not return.
- Oct. 4, 2006: An MBI employee working with authorities calls Luis Torres and says
someone wants to buy fraudulent papers from him. The next day, Torres allegedly sells an
undercover FBI agent a set of documents for $120. Eight days later, Torres sells the
undercover agent five more sets of documents.
- December 2006: The employee who first contacted the authorities about the problems at
MBI said Ana Figueroa told a group of employees looking to find jobs for their
grandchildren that Mr. Insolia would not hire them because he wanted only "illegal
- Feb. 1, 2007: A federal agent watches 527 MBI employees arrive at work and recognizes
several suspected undocumented workers. On about the same day, MBI submits payroll records
for 646 employees. The SSA finds an "astounding" 66 percent are deficient.
|Employees are escorted out after an early morning raid by federal
immigration officials at the Michael Bianco Inc. textile plant in New Bedford, Mass.,
Tuesday March 6, 2007. The owner of the leather company was arrested and accused of hiring
hundreds of illegal immigrants to work in 'sweat shop' conditions. About two thirds of the
company's 500 employees were detained by immigration officials on suspicion of being in
the U.S. illegally. (AP Photo/The New Bedford Standard Times, Peter Pereira)
March 6, 2007: About 300 federal agents descend on MBI, capturing more
than 300 undocumented workers. Francesco Insolia, Ana Figueroa, Dilia Costa, Gloria Melo
and Luis Torres are brought up on federal charges.
Information compiled by Standard-Times staff reporter Rob Margetta from court documents
and Department of Defense records.
Date of Publication: March 07, 2007 on Page A04
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