Officer goes undercover to nab suspected deadbeat contractor
SEATTLE — A police officer trained for weeks to go undercover and catch a deadbeat contractor who allegedly failed to pay his employees a living wage and hired illegal employees who he reported to immigration authorities if they complained about their missing pay, Seattle police said.
Dathan Lavell Williams is charged in King County Superior Court with first-degree theft, failure to pay employees and offering false filing records.
According to court documents, workers union representatives came to Seattle police and said some area contractors — including Williams — were undercutting legitimate business by failing to pay the prevailing wage and forcing their employees to work overtime for little pay, even on government funded job sites.
Union reps also alleged some employers threatened their employees; at times with weapons.
Seattle police trained an undercover officer to infiltrate Williams’ J. Structures & Interior Solutions, LLC, reportedly one of the area’s worst offenders. JRW Structures specializes in installation of drywall and metal framing.
With the help of a local union, an undercover police officer trained in drywalling and the construction industry for several months. The officer then applied for a job at JRW Structures, police said, and in April 2011 was hired on by Williams after the police officer met with him at an area Taco Bell.
It wasn’t long before Williams allegedly began “bragging” about his shoddy employment record, police said. At the Taco Bell meeting, Williams allegedly told the undercover officer he hired undocumented workers. He even explained how one time two illegal immigrants demanded more money, and Williams responded by calling Immigration Customs Enforcement. The two immigrants were deported.
“That’s what you get when you try to f*** with me,” Williams allegedly told the informant.
Soon, the undercover officer was working at a job site. According to the undercover officer, Williams knowingly committed a variety of violations, including:
- Bragging about falsifying unemployment claims
- Intentionally paying employers below government required wages
- Using an illegal business license
- Failing to pay taxes
- Knowingly underbidding jobs by not paying the prevailing wage to his employees, allegedly saying “you could pay them (illegal immigrants) $2 an hour if you wanted.”
- Making workers sign an illegal document acknowledging they wouldn’t be paid the prevailing wage
According to court documents, Williams secured many government contracts with low bids, including work on a U.S. Post Office, a town civic center and multiple area schools.
Williams has not yet been arrested.