ICE in Sleepy Eye: Federal raid targeted businesses, not workers

(Sleepy Eye, MN) – An immigration raid Wednesday at Christensen Farms company headquarters in Sleepy Eye was part of a large federal operation that targeted business in Nebraska and Minnesota.

U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a press release that the raid led to the indictment of 17 business owners and managers indicted for fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering.  Fourteen were taken into custody, while another three are still being sought.

Additionally, 133 illegal workers were arrested for immigration violations.  Between 350-400 federal, state and local law enforcement officers worked together on the arrests.

Law enforcement believes that the individuals that were arrested exploited illegal aliens through force, coercion, or threat of arrest and deportation.  Workers were allegedly required to cash their paychecks at an illegal remittance business for a fee, and had tax money deducted from their paychecks, even though the money was never paid to the government.

Special Agent in charge, Tracy J. Cormier compared the practices to the “old ‘company store’ policy” where workers were indebted to the company for services like check cashing.

Besides company headquarters in Sleepy Eye, Christensen Farms locations in Appleton, Minnesota and Atkinson, Nebraska was searched as part of the 15-month ongoing investigation.

The focus of the operation is unusual in that it targeted business operators for arrest.  Most immigration raids have targeted workers suspected of being in the country illegally.

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