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Long Days Ahead for Frank Trapp

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In August, 2008, federal ICE agents raided Howard Industries, Inc. Acting on tips that the transformer company and Mississippi's second largest employer was routinely hiring illegal immigrants and then directing them to mislead the Social Security Administration, the nation's largest workplace raid unfolded in this small southern town. Close to 600 illegal immigrants were captured and before the day was over, the company's human resources manager was arrested. Jose Humberto Gonzalez is awaiting sentencing for his guilty plea. He faces five years for each of the 24 charges of falsely certifying the employment records of many of these immigrants. He also admitted to altering the Form I-9s for these illegals. Howard Industries, however, denied any knowledge and professed its innocence for nearly two years before finally admitting its knowledge of what was going on.

Frank Trapp, the company's lead counsel, stood by last Thursday as the guilty plea was entered and the whopping $2.5 million fine was handed down. The U.S. Justice Department claimed victory and less than twenty-four hours later, four African American women filed a class action lawsuit claiming discrimination. Interestingly, three of those four women were eventually hired. They say they were denied jobs before due to the cheap labor provided by the immigrants. It wasn't until after the raid they were offered positions.



The women, through their own legal teams, filed the suit last Friday in a Hattiesburg court. Trapp says he was unaware of the latest legal quagmire, though he stands ready to defend his clients once again.

Trapp graduated from the University of Mississippi with his BA in 1969 and then received his JD in 1972 from the same university. He is a member of the Mississippi, Florida, Georgia and District of Columbia State Bars. He's a partner with Phelps Dunbar, LLP in Jackson. The firm specializes in white collar crime, and some of his clients include banks, insurance companies and of course, transformer companies.

Before arriving at Phelps Dunbar, Trapp worked as a lawyer with the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division in both the DC and Atlanta areas. He was also an assistant US attorney for the Middle District of Florida and was recently selected one of The Best Lawyers in America.

Now that Trapp has made history by being part of the defense against the largest immigration raid, it looks as though he's now in for another tough legal battle with those same clients.

In the meanwhile, Gonzalez, the human resources manager, had his sentencing date delayed yet again. It's unlikely his next court date this week will be pushed back again.

Phelps Dunbar LLP

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