3 from Centerville contracting company arrested in labor trafficking investigation
Nov 21, 2023, 4:49 PM | Updated: 4:49 pm
CENTERVILLE — Three members of a general contracting business based in Davis County, including the company president and chief financial officer, have been arrested following a six-month labor trafficking investigation by the state.
Investigators say additional arrests are pending.
Tyler Charles Brinkman, 57, Clayton Ray Phillips, 49, and Adam Perea, 35, were each booked into the Davis County Jail on Monday for investigation of seven counts of aggravated human trafficking. Brinkman and Perea were also booked for investigation of an additional count of engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity.
The Utah Attorney General’s Office began investigating Rubicon Contracting LLC, based in Centerville, in May after receiving “a confidential tip from the National Trafficking Hotline that an individual was potentially the victim of labor trafficking,” according to several police booking affidavits. Brinkman is listed as the company’s president and Phillips as the chief financial officer.
“Agents subsequently identified multiple victims who reported similar treatment while employed by Rubicon,” an affidavit states.
Investigators identified seven alleged victims in the arrest reports. Each has a similar story of coming to Utah from Mexico after being promised full-time work, but instead getting paid very little, not getting enough hours, being forced to live in deplorable conditions, having paychecks deducted for situations out of their control and being threatened with deportation, according to the affidavits.
Attorneys representing Rubicon released a prepared statement on Tuesday afternoon in response, denying the allegations:
“We learned today that Rubicon is being investigated by the Attorney General’s Office about its labor practices. Rubicon denies any wrongdoing and has complied in good faith with all applicable laws. Rubicon is cooperating with the investigation and believes it will ultimately be vindicated.”
The victims would typically be paid through a limited access debit-type card, which Rubicon maintained “full access to the funds … and could deduct any amount at any time. (One man) stated he left after four months because he only received $1,400 in pay in those four months,” an affidavit alleges.
Another worker said “he couldn’t get access to the account to check balances, so he had to remember how much money should be in the account. (He) stated on more than one occasion he was only paid about $20, and when he asked for more hours, he was told there weren’t any hours available,” according to the affidavit. The man “stated he had no work for the first three weeks he was in Utah.”
A third man “stated that as of June 2023, he had not had any work for three months,” according to the affidavit.
The workers were also allegedly required by Rubicon to live in housing provided by the company and pay rent. Investigators talked to former Rubicon employees who described the living conditions as “abhorrent” and that “it was common knowledge that the housing provided to the … visa workers was poor quality,” the affidavit says.
One man says he “did not have any furnishings, pots and pans, or simple housewares” and “the only thing in the home when they arrived was trash that had been left behind by a previous tenant,” according to the affidavit. Another told investigators that “he was not given food until two days after his arrival” and that “he was not given the option to live anywhere else and was required to pay to live in the residence provided by Rubicon” which would demand payment for overdue rent “despite knowing that Rubicon had not provided them with any work in (a) month.”
Others described the housing provided by Rubicon as “lacking in all basic amenities,” including one home that had no “gas or hot water in the middle of winter.” One worker said the home he was assigned to “did not have any furniture. (He) stated upon arrival to Utah he was provided a pillow, shampoo, and a blanket. (He) stated that he was given a small amount of canned food like soup, rice, beans, ham, and eggs that was expected to be for all seven individuals in the home,” the affidavit alleges.
Rubicon offers general contracting services such as snow removal and landscaping. Several workers told investigators they were assigned to snow removal jobs which would require driving a snowplow, even though they did not have valid U.S. driver’s licenses and no training on how to operate the vehicle. One former employee reported “that he saw workers shoveling snow in tennis shoes, workers didn’t have knowledge of U.S. traffic laws, workers were unfamiliar with large vehicle operation, workers were unfamiliar with large thoroughfares like I-15, and workers had limited knowledge of technology requirements of the job.
“(The witness) relayed multiple instances of workers being unfamiliar with how to drive the vehicles provided by Rubicon and confusion about how to drive on highways and freeways. (The witness) relayed a particular story where a worker was driving a Rubicon truck on I-15 from Bountiful to Spanish Fork and the worker never left the right-hand lane, taking every exit ramp and on-ramp the entire drive,” the affidavit states.
Other former employees told investigators that Rubicon leaders kept creating shell companies for the purpose of hiring more visa workers and shuffling them around, according to the affidavit.