JACKSON, MISS. – US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced indictments of four people in the Mississippi poultry industry following an Aug. 2019 immigration raid and the year-long investigation that followed.
In the initial raid last year, 680 people were detained by ICE with 300 people being released within a few days. At the time, ICE said the agricultural processing plants in Mississippi were part of an ongoing Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) worksite enforcement criminal investigation.
“This office has a successful history of prosecuting employers for violating our immigration laws, and today marks another step in ensuring that justice is fairly and impartially done, no matter the law-breaker,” said US Attorney Mike Hurst. “I want to thank our partners at ICE Homeland Security Investigations and our office’s federal prosecutors for doggedly pursuing these criminal violations. The indictments unsealed today mark the beginning, not the end, of our investigations and prosecutions. Rest assured that we will continue to pursue criminal wrongdoers and enforce our criminal laws wherever the evidence may take us.”
The people indicted include Salvador Delgado-Nieves, previously an administrator at A&B Inc., in Pelahatchie, Miss. Nieves was charged with three counts of harboring illegal aliens, three counts of assisting illegal aliens in falsely representing themselves as American citizens, three counts of assisting illegal aliens in obtaining false Social Security cards and one count of making a false statement to law enforcement. He previously denied having hired illegal aliens at A&B. Nieves faces up to 74 years in federal prison and $2.5 million in fines.
The second person indicted was Iris Villalon, of Ocean Springs, Miss., who was indicted on one count of harboring an illegal alien, and one count of making false statements when she denied that she had hired illegal aliens for employment at A&B Inc. Villalon also faces one count of causing false employer quarterly wage reports to be filed when she knew the Social Security Administration did not assign the Social Security number represented in such reports to that specific illegal alien employee. Villalon faces up to 20 years in prison and $750,000 in fines for these criminal violations, as count 1 carries a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and counts 2-3 carry a maximum of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.
Carolyn Johnson and Aubrey “Bart” Willis previously of Pearl River Foods LLC, were charged together. Johnson was indicted on six felony counts of harboring an illegal alien as well as one count of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft. Willis was indicted on five counts of harboring an illegal alien.
Johnson was also charged for fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a grant from the State of Mississippi for reimbursement for on the job training for employees of Pearl River Foods. Johnson submitted the claims without the job training ever occurring.
If convicted, Johnson could see a maximum sentence of up to 84 years in prison and $2.25 million in fines, with counts 1-6 carrying a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation, count 7 carrying a maximum of twenty years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation and counts 8-9 carrying a mandatory minimum of 2 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation.
If convicted, Willis faces a maximum of up to 50 years and $1.25 million in fines, counts 1-5 carrying a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation.
Poultry processing plants run by Koch Foods, Peco Foods and PH Foods were also raided back in 2019, but no one affiliated with those companies has been named in these recent indictments.
“The results of this ongoing criminal investigation illustrate the importance of strong interior enforcement. The arrests made last year pursuant to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s execution of more than a dozen search warrants, have thus far yielded 126 indictments, 117 criminal arrests and 73 convictions. In total, more than 403 individuals falsified social security information in order to gain illegal employment in the United States,” said Matthew T. Albence, acting ICE deputy director and senior official performing the duties of the director. “Companies who intentionally or knowingly base their business model on an illegal workforce deprive law abiding citizens and lawful immigrants of employment opportunities, which are especially critical as our economy looks to recover from the challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic.”