Boise, ID – A federal grand jury in Boise returned an indictment charging Ernesto Garibay Garza, 61, of Texas, with wire fraud, extortion, and filing false tax returns, U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit announced today.
According to the indictment, Garza worked as a farm foreman in Idaho at least between 2005 and 2019, during which time he used H-2A agricultural workers, who lawfully enter the United States to perform agricultural labor or services on a temporary or seasonal basis, to further a scheme to defraud the farm and he also extorted the H-2A agricultural workers for annual cash payments. The indictment also charges Garza with filing false tax returns.
According to the indictment, Garza implemented the unlawful scheme while he worked as a supervisor and foreman for F.D.C. in Glenns Ferry. F.D.C. is an agricultural services company that operates farms throughout Idaho, including in Glenns Ferry. The farm employs H-2A agricultural workers each year from approximately March to November.
According to the indictment, beginning in approximately May 2005, Garza began defrauding F.D.C. by reporting more hours on timesheets than actually worked by the H-2A agricultural workers, then requiring the H-2A agricultural workers to pay back the hours that the H-2A agricultural workers did not work in cash to Garza every two weeks. Garza directed and caused another individual to collect cash from the H-2A agricultural workers. Garza informed the H-2A agricultural workers that they would not be allowed to return to F.D.C. the following year if they refused to remit the cash to Garza. Garza also obtained separate annual cash payments from H-2A agricultural workers as a condition of future employment, with their consent induced by wrongful threat of economic harm against H-2A rules and regulations.
Garza is scheduled for trial on July 10, 2023, before Chief U.S. District Judge David C. Nye of the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison.
U.S. Attorney Hurwit credited the cooperative efforts of the Idaho State Police and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, which led to the charges.