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Slaughterhouse Raid Leads to ID Theft Charges

Posted August 28, 2007

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— Federal authorities on Tuesday charged 28 people arrested last week at a Bladen County meat packing plant with identity theft.

The U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided the Smithfield Foods Inc. plant in Tar Heel and residences in four counties on Aug. 22 as part of "Operation Namesake." Fifteen men and 13 women were arrested and sent to regional detention centers.

Investigators said 25 of the detainees assumed the identities of real people in order to falsify citizenship and seek employment. They didn't specify how the immigrants stole the IDs, but they said the case goes beyond instances where workers simply make up fake identities.

"We had U.S. citizen complaints, victims that made their losses known to the government," said Kenneth Smith, who oversees ICE's Office of Investigations in North Carolina. "Typically, what we see are document vendors who will sell both fraudulent documents and documents that belong to other individuals."

The identity-theft victims face various losses, including one person who nearly lost a federal housing subsidy because a suspect's income at Smithfield Foods showed up in the person's IRS records, authorities said.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which has tried to organize the plant for more than a decade, has argued that Smithfield Foods turned in the workers to authorities because of the ongoing labor dispute at the plant. Prosecutors said the unionization effort has nothing to do with their identity theft investigation.

"The investigators nor this office made any inquiry of the status of any of these individuals in regards to their participation in labor organizing activities," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Candelmo said.

ICE agents arrested 21 plant employees in January, and Smithfield Foods also sent letters to 500 to 600 employees whose Social Security numbers, names or other personal information couldn't be verified. The company also fired about 50 workers, saying they provided false information.

About 1,000 workers, most of them Hispanic, then left the plant in protest until Smithfield agreed to rehire the fired workers and letter recipients, who received a grace period to resolve discrepancies in their identity information.

When that time expired, Smithfield officials said about 300 workers quietly left their jobs or quit showing up for work.

The people arrested in last week's raid face a minimum of two years in prison and deportation, if convicted of identity theft. Authorities said some of them have been deported previously.

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  • Tripwire Aug 30, 2007

    Maybe there needs to be a Boycott march at Smithfields plant by the citizens of this state that are Fed up with waiting for the government to do something. Maybe we should not let workers pass untill we can check their greencards.

  • NCGal Aug 30, 2007

    If there's no demand, there's no need for all these illegal workers.

    If ICE won't protect us, we can protect ourselves. BOYCOTT ALL SMITHFIELD PRODUCTS. THE SS# YOU SAVE COULD BE YOUR OWN.

  • Tommylee Aug 29, 2007

    NOT EVEN A DROP IN THE BUCKET. SOME OF THIS COULD STOP AT THE DMV, , AND THE HOSPITALS. NO SOCIAL NUMBER NO SERVICE.

  • the alliance Aug 29, 2007

    We need to get these dishonest non-us-citizens outta here, put them in jail at theeir country. Move them out quickly.

  • cmaslady Aug 29, 2007

    What is ICE?

  • Question Aug 29, 2007

    If so many people are on the same page, why is nothing being done? Instead of telling each other, write the governor, your senators and representatives. We need action--at the DMV, employers, etc.

  • NANA13 Aug 29, 2007

    TWO QUESTIONS:
    1-IF AMERICANS BROKE A LAW IN MEXICO OR ANY COUNTRY WHAT WOULD THEY FACE, DEPORTATION AND NO PRISON TIME?
    2-ARE THESE COMPANIES FINED THAT HIRE THESE PEOPLE? MAYBE IF SMITHFIELD AND OTHER COMPANIES WERE FINED THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS FOR EACH ILLEGAL THEY EMPLOYED THEY WOULD BE MORE CAREFUL WHEN HIRING, AND IF THE PEOPLE WHO HIRE THEM STOPPED DOING SO THE ONLY WAY THEY COULD WORK IN THIS COUNTRY WOULD BE BY LEGAL MEANS...

  • Joy4u2 Aug 29, 2007

    They know the system how to beat it, and it works for them. Does anybody see anything going on other than talk? NO. And thats the way its going to stay wait and see. I have read this over and over and its always the same old same old,. It gets to the point where it makes me want to throw up!! No body is standing up for North Carolina!!So where is ICE wraped in a warm blanket?

  • whatusay Aug 29, 2007

    I had a conversation with a Hispanic woman this morning and she said she and her family migrated to NC from Florida because everyone told her NC welcomes immigrants and there are more and better paying jobs in NC.

  • dianadarling Aug 29, 2007

    Here is the difference -Americans were suffering losses, like loss of benefits because their identities had been stolen. Suppose you were getting disability because you couldn't work and suddenly earnings show up on your social sec number? Or you are retired and getting Soc Security and your benefits are cut because you make too much money. This is not a victimless crime. "We had U.S. citizen complaints, victims that made their losses known to the government," said Kenneth Smith, who oversees ICE's Office of Investigations in North Carolina. "Typically, what we see are document vendors who will sell both fraudulent documents and documents that belong to other individuals."

    The identity-theft victims face various losses, including one person who nearly lost a federal housing subsidy because a suspect's income at Smithfield Foods showed up in the person's IRS records, authorities said.

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