By JUAN A. LOZANO / Associated Press
The owner and two managers of a rag factory raided in June by immigration officials have been indicted on charges related to hiring and harboring illegal immigrants, prosecutors announced Thursday.
Mabarik Kahlon, 45, owner of Action Rags USA, and two managers, Cirila Barron, 38, and Valerie Rodriguez, 34, were each indicted on two counts: conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens and to induce illegal aliens to come to the U.S., and inducing aliens to enter the United States for commercial advantage.
Both counts carry a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine, U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle said in a statement.
Another manager, Mayra Herrera-Gutierrez, 32, was charged last week with the same crimes through a criminal complaint.
Attorneys for Kahlon, Barron and Herrera-Gutierrez did not immediately return calls Thursday seeking comment. Court records did not list an attorney for Rodriguez.
All four defendants are expected to appear in federal court next week. Barron and Herrera-Gutierrez remain in custody because they are illegal immigrants. Kahlon and Rodriguez remain free on bond.
Earlier this month, charges against a fifth defendant, Rasheed Ahmed, were dismissed because of his serious health issues.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement began investigating Action Rags, a hot, cluttered factory in north Houston, following complaints in May 2007, according to court documents. The factory is an exporter and grader of used clothing.
During a yearlong investigation, ICE agents said they discovered the company did not properly complete I-9 forms to verify eligibility for employment and knowingly hired undocumented immigrants.
Managers paid illegal immigrants in cash until they were able to purchase fraudulent identity and Social Security cards from local flea markets, according to court documents.
Barron is alleged to have said to undercover informants used by ICE agents, "take them to the flea market and make them citizens."
ICE agents raided the factory on June 25. There were about 300 workers at the time of the raid. More than 150 suspected illegal immigrants, mostly from Mexico, working at the factory were detained in one of the largest immigration raids in the city in nearly two years.
The indictment alleges that illegal immigrants made up about 85 percent of the workforce at Action Rags.