James Brantley, the owner of a Tennessee meatpacking plant, pled guilty yesterday to tax fraud, wire fraud, and employment of illegal aliens. ICE conducted an enforcement action at his Southeastern Provision slaughterhouse in Bean Station on April 5th. He faces up to 20 years in prison when sentenced Feb. 4.

Jere Miles -- the ICE Special Agent in Charge who oversaw the April effort – said, "This case was a criminal investigation from day one, not simply an immigration enforcement action." Agents discovered 104 illegal aliens working at the plant although Brantley told the Internal Revenue Service he had only 44 wage-earning employees. Over the last ten years, using unauthorized workers allowed him to avoid paying almost $1.3 million in federal payroll taxes.

Court records show the company started to hire illegal aliens in 1988. In the beginning, Brantley didn't ask for identification. Last year, he started to record Social Security numbers workers provided but did not follow ID verification procedures. He paid workers less than $10 per hour in cash and regularly made them work long hours.

In addition to the jail sentence, Brantley could be fined up to $500,000, plus a $3,000 fine for each unauthorized worker. He also must forfeit nearly $1.5 million under his plea agreement.

Read more at Knox News.

Updated: Thu, Sep 27th 2018 @ 1:00pm EDT