SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A 47-year-old roofing contractor in central Illinois has been sentenced to three years in prison for visa fraud and for harboring and employing illegal aliens.

Edwin J. Gire, 47, owner of Champaign, Ill.-based Gire Roofing, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois.

He also was ordered to pay a fine of $30,000 and to remain on supervised release for two years following his release from prison.

Additionally, Grayson Enterprises Inc., Gire Roofing’s parent company, was sentenced to a three-year term of probation and ordered to pay a fine of $250,000.

In January 2018, Gire and Grayson Enterprises were convicted of visa fraud (four counts) and harboring illegal aliens (three counts) following a bench trial. Gire had previously entered pleas of guilty to three misdemeanor counts of unlawful employment of aliens.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois, “a district court judge found that both Gire and Greyson Enterprises obstructed justice during the trial by committing perjury and providing false information to the court. The court found that as a result of the fraud, more than 100 fraudulent H-2B worker visas were issued to Gire Roofing from 2011 to 2014. To justify the number of H-2B worker visas requested, Gire provided multiple fraudulent roofing contracts, including contracts for work that customers never agreed to and contracts with forged signatures of the alleged customers or their representatives.”

During the trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Gire “knew or recklessly disregarded the fact that illegal aliens were allowed to live in a building owned by his company.”

“Gire did this to make the aliens’ employment as roofers for Grayson Enterprises attractive despite the fact that Grayson Enterprises was paying them less than the applicable prevailing wage,” according to the press release. “By giving the aliens a place to live, the court found that Gire safeguarded the aliens from the authorities by making it more difficult for authorities to locate them.”

Prosecutors recommended Gire go to prison for more than four years in prison and be fined $250,000. They also recommended Grayson Enterprises have to pay a fine of $1.25 million.

According to the (Champaign, Ill.) News-Gazette, Gire apologized to the court immediately before sentencing.

"I needed workers. I trusted the professionals who told me they could provide foreign workers," Gire told the court, according to the newspaper. "I trusted a lawyer (who) I know now did not act according to law. I used bad judgment, and for that, I am deeply sorry."

The charges were investigated by the U.S. Dept. of State, Diplomatic Security Service; the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Office of Inspector General; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eugene L. Miller and Matthew Weir represented the government in the case prosecution.