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03/04/2009

Agriprocessors supervisor sentenced to 23 months in prison

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A former supervisor at Agriprocessors Inc., in Postville, Iowa, was sentenced Wednesday to nearly two years in federal prison for his role in harboring illegal aliens. The sentencing was announced by U.S. Attorney Matt M. Dummermuth, Northern District of Iowa. The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Martin De La Rosa-Loera, 43, of Postville, Iowa, was sentenced Wednesday to 23 months in federal prison for aiding and abetting in harboring illegal aliens. There is no parole in the federal prison system. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Reade increased his sentence from the sentencing guidelines because De La Rosa-Loera held a supervisory position, and also because 100 or more illegal aliens were harbored.

According to information disclosed in court, De La Rosa-Loera entered the United States illegally from Mexico in 1997. He worked at Agriprocessors illegally for several years before becoming a U.S. permanent resident in 2002. De La Rosa-Loera was later naturalized as a U.S. citizen.

De La Rosa-Loera supervised about 70 poultry employees at Agriprocessors, according to information presented in court. In May 2007, De La Rosa-Loera told poultry workers they would need to change their Social Security numbers and names to be able to continue working at the company, and they would have to "start over" at the beginning wage of $6.25 per hour. Shortly afterward, between 100 and 200 poultry workers walked off the job in protest.

In late April 2008, De La Rosa-Loera received a list of several employees who were to be terminated. Although De La Rosa-Loera was told the listed employees' Social Security numbers were bad, De La Rosa-Loera's supervisors told him six of the most valuable workers could stay if they got new identification documents. De La Rosa-Loera directed a poultry leadperson under his supervision to get new identification documents, and directed the leadperson to tell five other employees on the list to do the same.

Although the company's human resources director later determined the employees' new fake documents were "not right," the six employees were allowed to continue working at Agriprocessors under their old documents.

ICE began investigating Agriprocessors in October 2007. ICE agents executed criminal and administrative search warrants at the Postville plant on May 12, 2008. The investigation is ongoing.

De La Rosa-Loera is being held in U.S. Marshals custody until he can be transported to a federal prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Peter E. Deegan Jr., C.J. Williams and Matt Cole, Northern District of Iowa, prosecuted this case.