The co-owner of a South Florida staffing firm admitted Tuesday in Florida Keys federal court to hiring people without work permits and defrauding the Internal Revenue Service out of more than $7.9 million.
Oleksandr Morgunov, a former Key West resident, pleaded guilty to one count of “conspiracy to harbor aliens and induce them to remain in the United States,” federal court records show. The 36-year-old man faces up to 10 years in prison.
According to investigators, several staffing companies co-owned and operated by Morgunov hired people to work at hotels, bars and restaurants in Key West and other locations from 2007 to 2021 — despite the laborers not being authorized to work in the U.S., court documents reveal.
As part of his plea, Morgunov admitted that he and his co-conspirators paid the workers without withholding Social Security, Medicare and income taxes from their wages, and failed to report those wages to the IRS as required by law, the Department of Justice confirmed in a news release. Morgunov also acknowledged that he and his co-conspirators defrauded the IRS out of $7.9 million-plus in employment taxes.
Mykhaylo Chugay, a man accused of working hand in hand with Morgunov, was found guilty of conspiracy and money laundering charges. He was sentenced in August to over 24 years in prison. Another man, Volodymyr Ogorodnychuk, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge and is serving a four-year prison term followed by three years of supervised release, court records show.
“The defendants encouraged and induced aliens to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, and concealed, harbored, and shielded aliens from detection, by failing to verify alien workers’ employment eligibility, and by providing said aliens with a means of financial support through employment,” prosecutors said.
Morgunov is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 31.