PHOENIX — The owner of a metro Phoenix car wash chain accused of immigration fraud in its hiring practices pleaded guilty Thursday to a felony charge to commit identity fraud.
Lee Stein, an attorney representing Danny's Family Car Wash owner Danny Hendon, said his client found the plea agreement to be a "fair resolution."
"It's been a difficult process and he's just glad to have today behind him," Stein said.
U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Cosme Lopez said Hendon acknowledges in the agreement that he "knowingly turned a blind eye" to the hiring of more than 200 unauthorized immigrants.
Hendon, a prominent figure in the Phoenix business community, had previously not been charged by prosecutors while several lower-level managers have since entered guilty pleas.
Some of the 13 managers who pleaded guilty said at least one higher-up within Danny's Family Car Wash instructed them to rehire workers who had to be fired after a federal audit. The initial audit found nearly half of the company's 1,900-person workforce was comprised of people who weren't authorized to work in the United States.
The agreement also calls for Hendon to step down as company president but he can still be a consultant, Stein added. The company announced Thursday that Hendon's daughter, Heather, will now serve as president.
Hendon was released on his own recognizance. He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 20.
Stein said it would be premature to speculate on what kind of sentence Hendon could receive.
Federal agents raided 16 Danny's Family Car Wash locations in August 2013 as part of an ongoing investigation involving immigration fraud, identity theft and financial violations. Questions have lingered about the extent to which upper management and ownership at the company knew or played a role in the hiring practices that federal authorities allege. All but one member of the company's top brass had been untouched by the case.