Vegan Food Company Fined $1.5 Million for Hiring Illegal Aliens
A company in a small California city has agreed to pay $1.5 million but will avoid prosecution for hiring 49 illegal aliens. The company rehired 13 of the illegal alien employees after the ICE audit that originally busted them.
A natural food company in Gridley, California, Mary’s Gone Crackers, Inc., was audited in March 2012 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The agency was investigating whether the company had any criminal violations of federal immigration laws. Gridley is in north central California and has approximately 6,500 residents.
An investigation of its I-9 immigration forms revealed that 49 of its employees were illegal aliens. One of the employees provided corrected documentation and the company informed ICE that the other 48 employees had either been fired or had resigned, according to a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of California.
The statement from the U.S. Attorney said that Mary’s Gone Crackers rehired at least 13 employees “that it claimed had been terminated or resigned, all of them under new names.” An operations supervisor never stopped working for the company but continued to work under a new assumed name. He also received payment as an independent contractor, not through the company’s regular payroll. Several of the employees knew that the supervisor was illegal and not eligible to legally work in the United States.
A search warrant was executed at the Gridley facility in January 2013. As least 12 of the 13 rehired employees were still working at the company.
“Protecting the integrity of the nation’s immigration system is a top priority for HSI,” said Ryan L. Spradlin, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Francisco. “Our agents are determined to hold those who choose to defraud the system accountable in order to reduce the demand for illegal employment and protect employment opportunities for the nation’s lawful workforce.”
During the I-9 audit and rehiring its employees, Mary’s Gone Crackers had consulted with outside counsel.
After the search warrant was executed, the company cooperated with the government and terminated employees, stopped using outside counsel, and took steps to ensure compliance with immigration laws and I-9 regulations. This included using E-Verify and the Social Security Verification Service. Mary’s Gone Crackers also started an anonymous tip line so employees could report any I-9 issues.
The non-prosecution agreement between the food company and the federal government (attached below), requires the company to establish a compliance program covering its I-9 procedures and its use of the E-Verify system. The compliance program also requires complete and timely compliance with the terms in the non-prosecution agreement. The agreement applies to the company and not to specific individuals.