Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Workers at Champion Safe are taken away in handcuffs after INS raided the business in February 2003.

An $80,000 fine has been levied against a Provo business whose owner admitted to concealing information about two dozen undocumented immigrants working at the company.

U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell imposed the fine Tuesday against Champion Safe Inc. Owner Ray Crosby pleaded guilty in November on behalf of the company to a single count of harboring illegal aliens.

"There's a lot of burden placed on small employers today," Crosby said Tuesday, noting he was not, at the time, an expert on federal immigration laws and hiring practices.

He is now, he said, and pledged to "abide to the letter of the law" in all hiring and employment practices.

Federal immigration officials arrested 107 Champion Safe employees during a raid of the business in February 2003. Agents executed the raid after serving the company with an Immigration and Naturalization Service subpoena seeking the employment records of suspected undocumented immigrants.

The 24 individuals named in the criminal charge are those whose records were seized during the raid but not previously disclosed to the INS in response to the subpoena, according to prosecutors.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dustin Pead said the case should serve as a warning against all Utah business owners, many of whom engage in knowingly hiring illegal aliens.

"They do so at their own peril," Pead said.

In addition to the $80,000 fine, Cassell put the company on three years probation during which Champion Safe must provide financial information to federal agents upon request, comply with all federal, state, local and immigration laws and allow immigration officials to inspect the company without prior notice.

According to court documents, Champion Safe followed a practice of hiring employees without completing the necessary eligibility forms and failed to take action after being notified of a problem with the Social Security numbers of 15 employees some three years prior to the raid. Also, a month before the raid, Crosby admitted to immigration officials he suspected that as many as half of his approximately 150 employees were undocumented immigrants.