BIRMINGHAM, ALA. – A federal jury convicted a husband and wife for conspiracy to transport undocumented immigrants within the United States and money laundering after five days of testimony before Chief US District Judge L. Scott Coogler, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced. Deivin Marquitos Escalante-Vasquez, 31, and Crystal Gail Escalante, 38, both of Haleyville, Ala., were charged in October 2020 with hiring undocumented immigrants to work for Mar-Jac Poultry at the company's processing plant in Jasper, Ala.
On the charge of conspiracy to transport illegal immigrants in furtherance of their presence in the United States, the couple faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The maximum penalty for money laundering is 20 years in prison.
A court document stated there was no wrongdoing by Mar-Jac Poultry.
“This conviction demonstrates how individuals willing to break the law can take advantage of immigration laws for personal gain,” said US Attorney Prim F. Escalona. “More importantly, no matter how sophisticated their efforts, we will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners and agencies to see that the immigration laws are followed, and that those who violate them are caught and convicted.”
The Department of Homeland Security launched an investigation into the company in 2018 after a Mar-Jac employee contacted the agency to report seeing a worker use the same name and Social Security number as another employee in Mississippi.
The couple, who operated a company called The Grand Family Enterprise (GFE) LLC, subcontracted over approximately a three-year period with Mar-Jac Poultry to provide labor to work the processing lines at the plant. The DOJ said the defendants filled multiple shifts with undocumented workers, many of whom were from Guatemala, who were working under false identifications.
Evidence also showed that the defendants knew the identities were false and changed names and identities when necessary to ensure the false identities would pass the E-Verify system. The evidence also showed that, when the identities could not get through the E-Verify confirmation system, the defendants kept the workers on their payroll.
“The couple owned several passenger vans and used them to provide their workers transportation to and from the plant,” DOJ said. “Over a three-year period, the defendants were paid over $16 million, and used some of their profits to purchase properties in the Haleyville area, and several high-end vehicles.
“The properties, vehicles and the defendants’ bank accounts will be the subject of a future asset forfeiture proceeding.”
Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama, said, “Our nation’s employment laws are designed to protect the legal force and prevent business from profiting under unequitable financial advantages. HSI is committed to protecting our citizens and employees from those who seek to gain an illegal advantage and make illicit profits by putting others at risk.”charged in October 2020 with hiring undocumented immigrants to work for Mar-Jac Poultry