GREENEVILLE, Tenn. – James Brantley, owner of Southeastern Provision in Bean Station, Tennessee, entered a guilty plea to two counts of tax evasion, one count of wire fraud and one count of employment of undocumented workers.
Court documents filed with the US District Court in Greeneville, Tennessee, state that from 1988 to April 2018, Brantley knowingly hired — and authorized two plant managers to hire — undocumented immigrants to work at Southeastern Provision. An undocumented immigrant Brantley hired more than 20 years ago is an undocumented immigrant who was promoted to a supervisor position about six years ago. That supervisor also was authorized by Brantley to hire undocumented workers.
“The defendant had actual knowledge that most of these employees were, in fact, unauthorized aliens,” according to the court filing. “The defendant hired or caused these unauthorized aliens to be hired in part because doing so reduced Southeastern Provision’s expenses, including its taxes, unemployment insurance premiums, and workers’ compensation premiums…”
Around the middle of 2017, according to court documents, Brantley “…misused at least 19 social security numbers which were either invalid or not assigned to the named authorized alien by, among other things, submitting them on various government forms, including forms used to calculate unemployment insurance.”
Brantley paid the undocumented workers in cash, court documents state, and approximately $25 million in weekly cash withdrawals were made by Brantley or at his direction from 2008 through April 5, 2018 when immigration officials raided Southeastern Provision. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said at the time that 97 people were arrested during the search.
Workers were paid a rate of approximately $8 to $10. When the undocumented workers accrued overtime, they were paid the $8 to $10 rate instead of “time and a half” as required by federal labor law.
As part of the plea, Brantley agreed to pay the IRS $1,296,183. The amount “…was calculated by comparing Southeastern Provision’s weekly payroll data (as documented on a spreadsheet stored on a computer seized during the execution of the search warrant at Southeastern Provision) with the weekly cash withdrawals from Southeastern Provision’s bank account (as documented on relevant bank records).”
Brantley also agreed to pay $127,405 in restitution to W.R. Berkley which served as Southeastern Provision’s workers’ compensation insurance provider
The charges Brantley faces carry a maximum total of 30 years in prison. He is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 12.