JACKSON, Miss. — A Mississippi couple was arraigned in federal court Thursday on a multi-count indictment charging them and their company, Love Irrigation, Inc., with conspiracy, harboring illegal aliens and encouraging illegal aliens to reside in the United States.
Paul and Barbara Love of Ridgeland, Miss., were also charged with improper use of Social Security numbers and making false statements on immigration forms.
The case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
If convicted, Paul Love faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and/or a $1.25 million fine. Barbara Love faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and/or a $1.75 million fine. Love Irrigation, Inc. faces a maximum fine of $1.5 million and up to five years probation. The trial is scheduled for Jan. 9, 2012, before U.S. District Chief Judge Henry T. Wingate in Jackson.
According to the indictment, Paul and Barbara Love are the owners of Love Irrigation, a lawn irrigation, sprinkler installation and landscaping company located in Ridgeland.
From 2003 through 2010, the Loves continued to employ, and even rehired, illegal aliens, despite being told by certain aliens that they were in the country illegally.
In May 2008, ICE HSI visited Love Irrigation and instructed the couple on how to properly complete Forms I-9, verify Social Security numbers and participate in the E-Verify program. Afterwards, ICE HSI reviewed the company's I-9 forms and informed the Loves that seven employees were in the country illegally and must be terminated. Rather than terminate the illegal alien employees, Love Irrigation, Paul Love and Barbara Love continued to employ them and took affirmative steps to hide the illegal alien employees from detection. The Loves then classified the illegal alien employees as “contract labor” and ceased reporting them to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) as required by law. Further, the Loves stopped paying the illegal alien employees in checks at the company offices and began paying them in cash at off-site locations. Crew supervisors were also instructed to pick up and drop off the illegal alien employees at covert locations other than the company offices in Ridgeland.
The indictment further alleges that, in 2010, Love Irrigation began resubmitting the names of its illegal alien employees to MDES, using the exact same names and Social Security numbers for some, but using different Social Security numbers for others previously identified by ICE HSI in 2008. Paul and Barbara Love also began falsifying I-9 forms in 2010, listing false employment start dates for various illegal alien employees, while listing different Social Security numbers from those used by the same illegal alien employees on the forms in the past and previously reported to the MDES. ICE HSI executed a criminal search warrant on Love Irrigation's offices in Ridgeland in July 2010.