February 19, 2016 / 3:44 PM / 4 years ago

Despite what some workers believe, U.S. government doesn't vet brokers

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sometimes, workers who are recruited for temporary jobs in America assume that the U.S. government has vetted and is vouching for the brokers who help secure the visas.

That’s not typically the case.

In 2000, for example, Lourdes Navarro pleaded no contest to grand theft in a scheme to defraud California’s healthcare system and was sentenced to jail time and probation. In 2003, she was convicted of laundering money in New Jersey and placed on probation.

Not long after, she became a labor broker.

By 2007, Navarro was operating a Los Angeles-based business called Universal Placement International. She recruited Filipino teachers for her American clients.

Nothing in U.S. Department of Labor regulations would have disqualified Navarro from working as a labor broker.

Her criminal history came to light only after some of the Filipino teachers she recruited filed a class-action lawsuit against her in California court.

Reached by Reuters, Navarro declined to comment.

Mairi Nunag-Tanedo, 40, one of the victims, was outraged that Navarro had been able to establish a legitimate brokering practice despite her criminal past. When Nunag-Tanedo was recruited by Navarro, she said she assumed that brokers – especially one employed by a school district — must have been vetted by authorities before being allowed to recruit.

“It made me angry,” said Nunag-Tanedo, who has remained in the United States on a visa for victims of human trafficking. “Shouldn’t there be background checks of these people? We thought, ‘Wow, if this can happen here, what else can happen?’ “

Edited by Blake Morrison.

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