ICE says 133 arrested on immigration violations

SLEEPY EYE — While serving criminal arrest warrants to 17 individuals in three states Aug. 8, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported that 133 people were arrested on immigration violations.

The 17 people served arrest warrants were connected to an alleged criminal conspiracy to exploit illegal alien laborers for profit, fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in Minnesota and Nebraska.

In addition to the arrest warrants, authorities led by the ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), served search warrants for worksite hiring violations at Christensen Farms Sleepy Eye Campus (office, feed mill and truck wash), Appleton truck wash, and at locations across Nebraska according to ICE.

There were 118 administrative arrests if suspected illegal aliens and 15 criminal arrests, 101 in Nebraska and eight in Minnesota. Of the suspected illegal aliens, 52 are in ICE custody, 57 were served with Notices to Appear before a federal immigration judge and released from custody. Nine were released without charges for various reasons including those who were in status but were not carrying appropriate documentation and those already in immigration proceedings.

Two individuals remain at large in Nebraska. Nationalities of those arrested on criminal charges following indictment included six U.S. citizens, eight from Mexico and one from Honduras.

Of the 101 people administratively arrested on immigration violations in Nebraska, 48 were from Guatemala, 42 of Mexico, four of El Salvador, two of Honduras and one each from Venezuela, Spain, India, Cuba and Chile.

Of the eight people arrested in Minnesota, five are in ICE custody and three were served notices to appear before a federal immigration judge.

“The purpose of the visit was to verify lawful employment in the United States,” read a Christensen Farms statement. “We were surprised and disappointed to learn that one of our third-party vendors is not in compliance with immigration policies. At Christensen Farms, we have an expectation that all of our partners and third-party vendors uphold the same high standards as our company. We value our diverse work force and those that work hard very day to put food on the table here in the United States and across the globe.

Christensen Farms Communications Manager Amber Portner attributed the issue to “a third-party vendor.” She said the company was cooperating with agents and that she knew of no arrests at any of the company’s locations.

“We’re in the process of ending that relationship with the third-party vendor,” Portner said Friday.

In addition, she said there have not been any charges filed against Christensen Farms itself and that the HSI visit did not cause any company shutdowns.

During the investigation, authorities identified employees who were subject to arrest for immigration violations and were unlawfully working in the United States; that they may also have been exploited as part of an alleged criminal conspiracy.

Some 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.

Individuals listed in the indictment are Juan Pablo Sanchez Delgado aka “Pablo,” Antonio De Jesus Castro, aka “Tony,” Magdalena Castro Benitez, aka “Nena,” Alma Hernandez Moreno, aka “Aunt,” Anayancy Castro Hernandez, aka “Anay,” Fabian Castro, aka “Fabi,” Suni Sarahi Sanchez Delgado, Osvaldo Sanchez Delgado, aka “Lalo, Lalito,” John Christopher Good, Aracely Heredia Martinez, aka “Donita,” Eric Beringer, Christopher Thurlow, Mayra P. Jimenez Castellon, Asiyadeth Jimenz Castellon, John Glidden, Jaime Garcia Cota, aka “David,” and Lillian Ajin.

Law enforcement believes the alleged conspirators, 17 people in several 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.

In addition, authorities suspect the illegal aliens who were knowingly hired as part of the alleged conspiracy were exploited through force, coercion, or threat of arrest and/or deportation.

The alleged 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 the alleged criminal activity.

The enforcement action is part of a 15-month, ongoing HSI investigation based on evidence that the companies allegedly knowingly hired illegal aliens at their facilities, and that many of the aliens are using fraudulent identification belonging to U.S. citizens.

A 24-hour toll-free detainee locator hotline is available for family members of those arrested to field questions about their detention location and status, and the removal process. The hotline operates in English and Spanish. The phone number is 1-888-351-4024.

The allegations contained in federal indictments, complaints and warrants are merely accusations and at not proof of wrongdoing. All defendants are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.