December 11th, 2008
11:30 AM ET
13 years ago

DHS: Cleaning company 'deceived' Chertoff

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Workers of a company that hired illegal immigrants cleaned the home of top U.S. immigration official Michael Chertoff, and the Department of Homeland Security has accused the company's owner of deceiving the department chief.

"Every contractor in the United States has the responsibility of ensuring their workers are legal," DHS spokesman Russ Knocke said in a prepared statement given to CNN on Thursday.

"As soon as the Chertoffs learned that Mr. Reid deceived them by employing some unauthorized workers, they fired him."

The situation came to light when the owner of the company, James Reid, approached The Washington Post, which published an article on Thursday.

Reid, who owns Consistent Cleaning Services in Maryland, denied that he deceived the DHS secretary and his wife, whom he had worked for since Chertoff was named to the position in early 2005. Now, he is facing more than $22,000 in fines from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, which is under DHS.

Reid told CNN's "American Morning" on Thursday that before he went to the Chertoffs' home, he provided the Secret Service with the employees' payroll information, their social security cards, work permits, passports or visas.

"Whatever information they provided me, I provided them," he said. The documents were checked again when Reid and the workers arrived at the Chertoffs' home.

"The same employees went into their house for year after year after year ... that they forced me to release," Reid said.

Every three months he would have to provide new documentation on the workers, he said. Reid said he determined four of his workers were undocumented, and fired them on his own. But he said that when ICE began its investigation earlier this year, it said six other employees were illegal immigrants and forced him to fire them.

He said those six workers, all women, had all the proper documentation and he personally escorted them into the Chertoffs' home after going through the security checks.

"I did not know they were undocumented," Reid said of the six women. "I figured I'd go to Homeland Security - I collected the information, I'd go to his house and after going to his house, I'd figure Secret Service just investigated them, so I'd figure they had to be legal."

"I had no questions about if they were legal."

Knocke, however, said while it is abundantly clear Reid employed unauthorized workers, it is unclear whether any of those illegal workers went into Chertoff's residence. Asked why the workers' unauthorized status did not come up during the routine Secret Service checks, Knocke noted that Reid's employee base and clientele was larger than just the Chertoffs.

DHS accused Reid of not doing his own background check on his workers, particularly through E-verify, a DHS-funded system that allows businesses to ensure that employees are legal.

"It is unfortunate that Mr. Reid did not acknowledge his own personal responsibility and check the eligibility of his work force," the statement from Knocke said.

But Reid maintains that he used a national payroll service to perform background checks, in addition to the Secret Service checks.

"I would think they would catch that after three years of taking ... what they say (were) illegal employees into their house, " Reid said. "They should have caught that a long time ago."

Knocke said Chertoff has been briefed on the situation, agreed the investigation should go forward, and recused himself from further involvement.

The DHS spokesman accused Reid of being a "disgruntled" former employee and an "opportunist" who has taken this opportunity to "vent his frustration."

Knocke said the Chertoffs were simply customers, and compared their employment of Reid's cleaning service to going to a restaurant and being told by the manager that a meal was properly served and the table was properly cleaned when it was not.

Reid told CNN the fine may force him out of business, and he has had trouble affording a lawyer. He said he sought help from his congresswoman, Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Maryland, and an immigrant advocacy organization in Maryland.
–CNN's Beth Rotatori contributed to this report

Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. E.T.

    They're everywhere.

    December 11, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  2. Amber

    Should have been paying attention, Chertoff.

    He can't be arsed to find out who's cleaning his house, yet we trusted him to run DoHS?


    December 11, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  3. George Nganga

    GM,Ford, Fannie,Freddie,AIG,and all those ather big time big money institutions going down; how many illigals are involved in mismanaging them?

    December 11, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  4. Carl Justus

    .If Chertoff had any doubts, he could have checked them out himself. My guess is that they were cheaper and Chertoff, like most are greedy and he took the deal before the man could quit showing him counterfeit papers

    December 11, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  5. Joe

    Chertoff's is just as bad as the rest of them in Wash.

    December 11, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  6. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    It just shows you that anyone can be fooled. There is no one person or agency that can conpletely sure that all of the employees working are legitimate.

    December 11, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  7. Jackie in Dallas

    Both sides of this contraversy seem just a tad out of whack. While it is true that Reid probably didn't do as thorough a check on the legality of some of his workers, it also seems rather fishy that some of those same illegal workers were not caught by the Secret Service checks. Could it be that their "papers" were good enough to fool everyone? And just how convenient is that...?

    December 11, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  8. Farrell, Houston, Tx


    December 11, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  9. Seattle Sue

    If Chertoff (the zombie) can't keep the illegals out of his own home, how does he propose to keep them out of our country and protect national security?

    December 11, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  10. lib4

    Chertoff should step down not because he potentially used illegal labor, he should step down because the process he put in place to verify immigration status has apparently failed.

    December 11, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  11. Ernie

    How crazy is this. Nothing suprises me anymore.

    December 11, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  12. Tim

    Lou Dobbs is going to have a field day with this!

    December 11, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  13. Phil in KC

    One more thought. Why DIDN'T the secret service investigate these people? And just how far is an employer supposed to go in verifying the information he's provided?

    December 11, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  14. John, Lakeland FL

    Mr. Reid should go to jail for this. There is no way Mr. Chertoff would have done business with him if he had known of the situation. I think Mr. Reid betrayed their trust and should be punished accordingly. This from the biggest Democrat around...

    December 11, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  15. Parker, TX

    LOL, what idiots.

    December 11, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  16. mmd

    Why didnot reid reconize that the people could not speak english. He and everyone else knew that were illegal end of story.

    December 11, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  17. Fred, VT

    Let's see, protect the country or have my house cleaned.....decisions, decisions.

    December 11, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  18. Linda K.

    Should someone who can be so easily deceived be in charge of Homeland Security?

    December 11, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  19. yertie

    That's what we get when Big Brother looks the other way (south of the border and across the ponds) to find cheap labor. Bet Reid didn't pay unemployment insurance and a few other "government required" taxes on these illegals. How come two border guards are still in prison for performing their duties to keep out the criminally illegals?
    We have hypocrits in office that need serious reprimanding.

    December 11, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  20. Kris D, Toronto

    Lou Dobbs will have field day with this one!

    December 11, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  21. Mike

    Let's sick Lou Dobbs on them!

    December 11, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  22. NY republican

    t mason – there are at least 3 "he"s in this article maybe as many as 7.
    Which of these would you like to "step down"?

    December 11, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  23. cat

    I dont know why people always got to be so down on Immigrants.
    Sure our ecomony is not doing well and sure we are losing jobs left and right...But people have the nerve to call yourselfs pro far as abortions are concerned...But how do you treat your brethern....our borders need to be fixed...but so do our hearts...These people are here because they are desperate to have a better life for their children...How can you say you are pro life and then be so cold that you would rather kick your brethern while he is down....
    i am pro life but i would not cast any stone on those who are pro choice....Because of you and how you treat your brethern...Lets fix our borders and live in harmony w/ those who are already here.

    December 11, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  24. Oh Sheet!


    They are fining this guy too? How is he supposed to check, if our useless DHS couldn't even catch them?

    December 11, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  25. Greed is not good

    OUch! Such hypocrisy. First Romney slams illegal immigrants while they landscape his billion dollar palace...then DHS itself uses them.

    December 11, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
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