ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division arrested 14 business owners and managers in Nebraska and Minnesota for colluding to create an illegal alien workforce and defrauding the government. Also arrested were 133 illegal aliens who were working unlawfully at the businesses. Officials are still looking to take three owners or managers into custody as part of the operation.

Special agent-in-charge Tracy Cormier said the operation was one of the largest ever by HSI. Between 350 and 400 federal, state and local law enforcement officers were involved in the arrests.

Unlike most enforcement actions which target illegal workers, this one targeted business operators for arrest. "The whole investigation was initiated, basically, because we knew that these businesses were cheating these workers and cheating taxpayers and cheating their competition," Cormier said.

The businesses allegedly engaged in a conspiracy to hire illegal aliens using fraudulent names and Social Security numbers. Additionally, authorities suspect the illegal aliens were exploited by the conspirators through force, coercion, or threat of arrest and/or deportation. The illegal aliens were allegedly required to cash their paychecks at an illegal remittance business for a fee, have tax money deducted from their pay even though this money was never paid to the government, and were coerced to remain quiet about this criminal activity.

The businesses involved included farms, a hydroponic tomato grower, restaurants and grocery stores, a pork producer and a truck wash facility.

Read more in Bloomberg.

Updated: Fri, Aug 24th 2018 @ 3:30pm EDT