November 29, 2020

Managers charged with federal, immigration crimes after Mississippi ICE raid

U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst, joined by Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Matt Albence, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New Orleans Acting Special Agent in Charge Gilbert Trill, and U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General Special Agent in Charge Rafiq Ahmad announced today the unsealing of indictments returned by a Federal Grand Jury in the Southern District of Mississippi against four individuals who were managers, supervisors, or human resources personnel at companies where criminal and administrative search warrants were executed in August 2019 and 680 illegal aliens were detained.

“This office has a successful history of prosecuting employers for violating our immigration laws, and today marks another step in ensuring that justice is fairly and impartially done, no matter the law-breaker. I want to thank our partners at ICE Homeland Security Investigations and our office’s federal prosecutors for doggedly pursuing these criminal violations. The indictments unsealed today mark the beginning, not the end, of our investigations and prosecutions. Rest assured that we will continue to pursue criminal wrongdoers and enforce our criminal laws wherever the evidence may take us,” said U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst.

“The results of this ongoing criminal investigation illustrate the importance of strong interior enforcement. The arrests made last year pursuant to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s execution of more than a dozen search warrants, have thus far yielded 126 indictments, 117 criminal arrests and 73 convictions. In total, more than 403 individuals falsified social security information in order to gain illegal employment in the United States,” said acting ICE deputy director and senior official performing the duties of the director Matthew T. Albence. “Companies who intentionally or knowingly base their business model on an illegal workforce deprive law abiding citizens and lawful immigrants of employment opportunities, which are especially critical as our economy looks to recover from the challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic. ICE Homeland Security Investigations will continue its commitment to uphold the laws Congress has passed. These laws protect jobs for the legal workforce, reduce incentives for illegal migration, and eliminate unequitable financial advantages for businesses employing illegal immigrants.”

INDICTMENT OF SALVADOR DELGADO-NIEVES OF A&B, INC.:

According to the indictment, Salvador Delgado-Nieves, 57, of Pelahatchie, Mississippi, was charged with three counts of harboring illegal aliens, three counts of assisting illegal aliens in falsely representing themselves to be United States citizens, three counts of assisting illegal aliens in obtaining false Social Security cards, and one count of making a false statement to law enforcement officials when he denied having hired illegal aliens at A&B, Inc. in Pelahatchie.

Delgado-Nieves faces up to 74 years in federal prison and $2.5 million in fines for these criminal violations, as Counts 1-6 carry a maximum of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation, Counts 7-9 carry a maximum of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count, and Count 10 carries a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

INDICTMENT OF IRIS VILLALON OF A&B, INC.:

According to the indictment, Iris Villalon, 44, of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, was indicted on one count of harboring an illegal alien, and one count of making false statements when she denied that she had hired illegal aliens for employment with A&B, Inc., in Pelahatchie, and one count of causing false employer quarterly wage reports to be filed when she knew the Social Security number represented in such reports was not assigned by the Social Security Administration to that specific illegal alien employee listed therein.

Villalon faces up to 20 years in prison and $750,000 in fines for these criminal violations, as Count 1 carries a maximum of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and Counts 2-3 carry a maximum of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.

INDICTMENT OF CAROLYN JOHNSON AND AUBREY “BART” WILLIS OF PEARL RIVER FOODS LLC:

According to the indictment, Carolyn Johnson, 50, of Kosciuskio, Mississippi, was a Human Resource Manager and Aubrey “Bart” Willis, 39, of Flowery Branch, Georgia, was the Manager at Pearl River Foods LLC in Carthage, Mississippi. Johnson was indicted on six felony counts of harboring an illegal alien as well as one count of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft. Willis was indicted on five counts of harboring an illegal alien.

The indictment charges both defendants with harboring illegal aliens following the execution of federal warrants at the Pearl River Foods facility on August 7, 2019. Johnson was also indicted for fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a grant from the State of Mississippi for reimbursement for on the job training for employees of Pearl River Foods. As set forth in the indictment, Johnson submitted claims for reimbursement for on the job training that never occurred.

If convicted, Johnson faces a maximum of up to 84 years in prison and $2.25 million in fines, with Counts 1-6 carrying a maximum of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation, Count 7 carrying a maximum of twenty years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation, and Counts 8-9 carrying a mandatory minimum of 2 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation.

If convicted, Willis faces a maximum of up to 50 years and $1.25 million in fines, Counts 1-5 carrying a maximum of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation.

Villalon, Johnson and Willis will appear for arraignment before United States Magistrate Judge Linda R. Anderson today at 1:30 p.m. Delgado-Nieves will appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Ball at 2:30 pm today for his arraignment. The case against Johnson and Willis has been assigned to Chief U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III. The cases against Villalon and Delgado-Nieves have been assigned to U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves.

These cases were investigated by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Lynn Murray.

On August 7, 2019, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi, executed multiple federal criminal and administrative search warrants at seven sites across central Mississippi. This was the largest single-state worksite enforcement operation in our nation’s history, resulting in the detention of 680 illegal aliens and the prosecution of 119 illegal aliens for stealing the identities of American citizens, falsifying immigration documents, fraudulently claiming to be United States citizens, and illegal re-entering the country after have been deported, among other federal crimes.

The investigations of federal criminal violations continue.

The public is reminded that an indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.