By ASHLEY TOMPKINS - Tribune City Editor
Friday, July 11, 2008 11:18 AM CDT
People rounded up April 16 by law enforcement personnel who aided ICE in its raids in Mount Pleasant were temporarily held in a county building off Industrial Blvd.
TRIBUNE photo by Lou Antonelli
Nineteen former Pilgrim's Pride Corp. employees were turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials Thursday after pleading guilty to misuse of Social Security numbers.
The defendants, all from the Mount Pleasant area, were charged with presenting Social Security account cards to the Pittsburg-based company to obtain and maintain employment. They entered their pleas before U.S. District Judge David Folsom in Tyler.
In each case, the individual knew that the number he or she presented was not the Social Security number assigned to them, according to information presented in court.
The guilty pleas come three months after federal officials arrested 45 local Pilgrim's Pride employees after a yearlong investigation. The five-state sweep resulted in the arrest of nearly 400 Pilgrim's Pride employees in Texas, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia.
Those entering pleas were: Ana Alvarez; Juan Mata; Juana Banda; Juana Canao-Urdaz; Juan Canada; Miguel Cordova; Pedro Pulquero-Perez; Bernardo Nava-Gomez; Balbina Barajas; Rafael Fernando; Maria Antonia Romero; Sara Garcia; Joaquin Hipolito; Leonardo Paloblanco; Jose Cruz; Omar Robles; Rafael Gomez; Carmela Vargas; and Rosauro Moran-Rodriguez.
Each defendant was sentenced to imprisonment equal to time they already served. They were released to the custody of ICE officials.
In addition to the 19, Cecelia Perez-Lazaro pleaded guilty to a one count of information alleging entry into the United States without inspection. She received a sentence equal to time already served and released to the custody of ICE.
In a related case, German Yepez-Guzman was sentenced to time already served on a charge of conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with identification documents.
Evidence indicated Yepez-Guzman was involved with others in selling false information documents n including Social Security numbers and birth certificates n used by aliens in Texas illegally to assist in gaining employment.
Assistant U.S Attorney Alan R. Jackson, who is prosecuting the case, previously said that after completion of criminal proceedings, defendants found to have been in the United States illegally would be returned to ICE custody and placed in deportation hearings.
All of those arrested in April's Mount Pleasant sting were identified as illegal immigrants.
Last month, 20 local defendants pleaded guilty to charges of providing false Social Security numbers to gain employment at Pilgrim's Pride. They were also turned over to immigration officials.
At that time, Jackson said 25 defendants remained to be tried in the case.
A Pilgrim's Pride representative has said the company cooperated fully with the government and faces no criminal or civil charges.