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Thirteen workers arrested in Fresh Mark immigration raid face federal charges

August 30, 2018

Thirteen workers arrested in Fresh Mark immigration raid face federal charges

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Thirteen people arrested in an immigration raid at a large Northeast Ohio meat packing company were indicted Wednesday on charges that they used fraudulent identification cards and paperwork to obtain employment.

The criminal charges brought against the workers are the first ones to be filed as a result of the June 19 raid on Fresh Mark locations in Salem and Massillon. Authorities say 146 people, most of whom hailed from Guatemala, were arrested on suspicion of being in the U.S. illegally. Many remain in custody pending deportation proceedings.

Of the 13 indicted, 11 hail from Guatemala, while two are from Mexico, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The defendants were all detained in and around Salem. They all made false statements that they were U.S. citizens and submitted fraudulent paperwork — be it in the form of Social Security cards, driver’s licenses and state ID cards — to their employers in order to get jobs, federal prosecutors said in a news release.

The raid on Fresh Mark was carried out by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other agencies. It was one of the largest in U.S. history, and followed another large roundup immigration authorities conducted at Corso’s, a garden and landscaping company with locations in Sandusky and Castalia earlier in June.

Investigators say Fresh Mark hired undocumented immigrants at its processing and packaging plants, and many of them used fake identities belonging to U.S. citizens. Agents have been investigating Fresh Mark for a year, officials said.

A spokeswoman for Fresh Mark did not immediately return an email Thursday.

Fresh Mark is a meat supplier with facilities in Canton, Massillon and Salem. The company supplies bacon, ham and hot dog meat to businesses and sports stadiums throughout Ohio, according to the company’s website. One of the company’s more popular products is the Sugardale Hot Dog, the hot dog often associated with $1 hot dog days at the Cleveland Indians’ Progressive Field.

The company was the first one in Ohio to voluntarily join the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers in 2012, a program that gives ICE increased access to companies and provides training to the companies regarding counterfeit documents, identity theft schemes involving undocumented workers and other regulatory issues, according to ICE.

The program enrollment also ensures that ICE will not conduct a review of the company in the two years after they sign up and promised a reduce risk of lawsuits regarding undocumented workers. ICE will also waive some fines or reduce others relating to undocumented workers if companies sign up with the program.

The raids in Ohio came as President Donald Trump and his administration’s aggressive policies on immigration have come to the forefront.

His administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on people crossing the country’s southern border led to an outcry because of reports of children being separated from their parents and being detained.

The president, following a public-relations pummeling, issued an executive order that stops the family separation, but he has continued to make statements about the dangers of many immigrants and that he still wants to strictly enforce border security.

Federal prosecutors in northern Ohio increased enforcement of federal immigration laws. U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman’s office has brought more immigration-related indictments in the past year than in the previous few years.

Authorities have also criminally charged more than a dozen workers from Corso’s with immigration-related offenses.

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