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Document and Benefit Fraud

91 Pilgrim's Pride workers face criminal charges in ongoing identity theft probe

More than 300 employees arrested at five of the company's poultry processing plants

DALLAS - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents worked through the night processing the more than 300 foreign national workers arrested yesterday at Pilgrim's Pride plants in five states who are suspected of committing identity theft and other criminal violations in order to obtain their jobs.

Of the 311 Pilgrim's Pride employees taken into custody during the enforcement action, 91 have been charged so far with criminal violations, including false use of a Social Security number and document fraud. The workers facing criminal charges have been turned over to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. The remaining Pilgrim's Pride employees are being processed for removal on administrative immigration violations.

All of the individuals arrested during yesterday's operation were interviewed by ICE agents and health care professionals, assigned to ICE from the Department of Health and Human Services Division of Immigration Health Services, to determine if they had health, caregiver, or other humanitarian concerns, and to identify possible urgent medical needs. As a result of those interviews, 58 of the workers were processed and released on humanitarian grounds under supervision, pending future immigration proceedings.

ICE has established a toll-free number that family members can call to get information about a relative's detention status and the removal process. The toll-free hotline number is 1-866-341-3858.

Yesterday's enforcement action is the result of an ongoing ICE-led investigation in cooperation with the U.S. Attorneys' Offices in the Eastern District of Texas, the Eastern District of Arkansas, the Eastern District of Tennessee, the Middle District of Florida, and the Northern District of West Virginia. Also aiding in the investigation are the Department of Labor's Office of the Inspector General; the Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General; the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the U.S. Postal Service; the U.S. Marshals Service; the West Virginia State Police; and numerous other state and local agencies.

As part of the investigation, ICE conducted simultaneous enforcement actions yesterday at Pilgrim's Pride plants in Mount Pleasant, Texas; Live Oak, Fla.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Batesville, Ark.; and Moorefield, W.Va. More specific information about each enforcement location is included on an updated fact sheet available at www.ice.gov.

The management at the affected Pilgrim's Pride facilities cooperated fully with the arrests. Pilgrim's Pride Corp., headquartered in Pittsburg, Texas, is one of the largest chicken-processing companies in the United States.

ICE's ongoing investigation determined that many Pilgrim's Pride workers committed identity theft and other criminal violations to obtain their jobs. ICE agents have interviewed numerous individuals during the course of the probe whose identities were stolen by Pilgrim's Pride employees. Those victims described a myriad of hardships they suffered as a result, including mistaken tax liens, denial of medical and social services benefits, and damage to their credit ratings.

Misuse of Social Security account numbers is a felony that carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.