(Sleepy Eye, MN) – The Wednesday search at Christensen Farms in Sleepy Eye was part of a multi-state investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
ICE says a series of criminal arrest warrants were executed 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 the 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 the execution of these search warrants, 133 illegal workers were administratively arrested for immigration violations. 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.
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.
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.
Communications Director with Christensen Farms, Amber Portner, says they are fully cooperating with the investigation and that they are unaware of any wrongdoing by the company.
(Copyright© 2018 Southern Minnesota Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)