Seth Gordon (sethg_prime) wrote in little_details,
Seth Gordon

a sweatshop disguised as a highly automated factory

(Setting: AU resembling the contemporary northeastern USA)

I have a story idea involving an entrepreneur who tries to pull off the following scam:

Because of [HANDWAVIUM], he is able to smuggle undocumented workers to a certain economically depressed area. He comes up with a scheme to build a factory (or renovate an abandoned one), tout it as a high-tech super-automated factory that will help revitalize the local economy, etc. etc., and then, instead of installing robots, he sets up an old-fashioned sweatshop.

(Perhaps the workers in this sweatshop are more skilled than the undocumented immigrants who sneak into the country through more conventional means, and therefore this sweatshop is more profitable than more conventional illegal enterprises.)

Mulling over this idea, though, I feel like it has a coherency problem. Illegal sweatshops work best when they are secret or at least inconspicuous: there is one building among many in a crowded city, and clients bring it work assignments (“get me five hundred XL T-shirts by Wednesday”) without associating their names with the company or inquiring too deeply into what happens there. But if this entrepreneur is boasting about the cover story for what he’s doing, wouldn’t that invite scrutiny?

ETA per moderator request: So I am interested in knowing, from people who understand better than I do how this kind of business works, how those two aspects of the story can be reconciled.

And once I figure out how the entrepreneur pulls off his scheme, of course, I need to figure out how Our Heroes see through his cover. (My first thought was that someone might notice that the ostensible factory doesn’t have enough power going into it to support as much industrial equipment as it claims to have.)
Tags: ~economics (misc), ~law enforcement (misc), ~organized crime, ~refugees, ~scams

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