BREAKING: ICE makes massive multi-state roundup, arrests 133 illegal workers and a host of employers (video)
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O’NEILL, Neb. – ICE officials served search warrants at 13 locations, 11 in Nebraska on Wednesday, arresting roughly 130 people, according to a press release by the Department of Homeland Security.
The large federal law enforcement operation targeted businesses in Nebraska and Minnesota that officials say knowingly hired — and mistreated — immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.
The article goes on to state the following:
The investigative arm of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement — Homeland Security Investigations — led the operation that saw about a dozen businesses and plants raided and the arrests of 14 business owners and managers and more than 130 workers. Most of the arrests occurred in northern Nebraska and southern Minnesota. Several of the businesses were in O’Neill, Nebraska, a town of about 3,000 about 160 miles northwest of Omaha.
Officials said they were still looking to take three owners or managers into custody as part of the operation.
Special agent in charge Tracy Cormier described the operation as one of the largest in Homeland Security Investigations’ 15-year history.
“I would say the amount of criminal warrants that are being executed will be one of the largest for HSI,” she said. “I’m not aware of a bigger one.”
Between 350 and 400 federal, state and local law enforcement officers worked together on the arrests, she said.
The focus of the operation is unusual in that it targeted business operators for arrest. Most immigration raids have targeted workers suspected of being in the country illegally.
“The whole investigation was initiated, basically, because we knew that these businesses were cheating these workers and cheating taxpayers and cheating their competition,” Cormier said.
The businesses engaged in a scheme that used fraudulent names and Social Security numbers to employ people in the country illegally, she said. The businesses used “force, fraud, coercion, threat of arrest and/or deportation” to exploit the workers, Cormier said. The business that hired out the immigrants also forced the workers to cash their paychecks with that business for an exorbitant fee, officials said, and withheld taxes from workers’ pay without paying those taxes to the government.
“It kind of reminds us of the revival of the old ‘company store’ policy, where it used to keep the coal miners indebted to the company for all kinds of services … like check cashing,” she said.
Below is information provided in a press release posted on the ICE.GOV website:
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — During a multi-state operation led by special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a series of criminal arrest warrants were executed Wednesday for 17 individuals connected to an alleged criminal conspiracy to exploit illegal alien laborers for profit, fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in Nebraska and Minnesota.
In addition to these arrest warrants, authorities also served search warrants for worksite hiring violations at agricultural firms in Nebraska and Minnesota, and federal document search warrants at locations throughout Nebraska, in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota; Appleton, Minnesota; and Las Vegas, Nevada. During this investigation, authorities identified employees who were subject to arrest for immigration violations and were unlawfully working at these businesses. These individuals have been illegally residing and working in the United States; they may also have been exploited as part of this alleged criminal conspiracy. During the execution of these search warrants Aug. 8, 133 illegal workers were administratively arrested for immigration violations; some will be issued notices to appear before a federal immigration judge and released from custody; the rest will remain in ICE custody pending immigration court proceedings.
Law enforcement believes the alleged conspirators, 17 individuals located in multiple states, colluded to create an illegal alien workforce in their respective businesses. By doing so, they defrauded the U.S. government and created an unfair advantage over their competition businesses. Additionally, authorities suspect the illegal aliens who were knowingly hired as part of this alleged conspiracy were exploited by the conspirators through force, coercion, or threat of arrest and/or deportation. Specifically, these illegal aliens were allegedly required to cash their paychecks at an illegal remittance business for a fee, have tax money deducted from their pay even though this money was never paid to the government, and were coerced to remain quiet about this criminal activity.
Search warrants were served at the following businesses and locations:
- Christensen Farms with numerous locations in Appleton, Minnesota; Sleepy Eye, Minnesota; and Atkinson, Nebraska;
- Elkhorn River Farms in O’Neill, Nebraska;
- O’Neill Ventures in O’Neill, Nebraska;
- La Herradura Restaurant in O’Neill, Nebraska;
- El Mercadito (grocery store) in O’Neill, Nebraska;
- A private ranch in O’Neill, Nebraska;
- La Herradura Restaurant in Stromsburg, Nebraska;
- GJW LLC with three locations in Ainsworth, Nebraska;
- J.E. Meurets Grain Company in Ainsworth, Nebraska;
- Herd Co Cattle Company in Bartlett, Nebraska; and
- Long Pine (farm) in Royal, Nebraska.
Note: The above list of locations does not include private residences included in the execution of search and arrest warrants.
This enforcement action is part of a 15-month, ongoing HSI investigation based on evidence that these companies allegedly knowingly hired illegal aliens at their facilities, and that many of these aliens are using fraudulent identification belonging to U.S. citizens.
— ICE (@ICEgov) August 8, 2018
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