By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

As expected after the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid of the Southeastern Provision slaughterhouse in Bean Station, Tennessee in April 2018, the federal government has brought criminal charges against James Brantley, the owner of the plant. Bradley has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of tax evasion, wire fraud and employing undocumented workers. He will enter a formal plea of guilty on September 12, 2018 in federal court in Greeneville, Tennessee. The charges carry a maximum total sentence of up to 30 years in prison, plus restitution to the IRS.

Brantley’s plea agreement came four months after ICE and IRS agents raided the Southeastern Provision plant. During the raid, the government seized boxes and boxes of company records as well as detaining 97 men and women based upon their undocumented status.

According to court records, Brantley began hiring undocumented immigrants, mostly from Mexico and Guatemala, 20 to 30 years ago. Initially, Brantley and Southeastern Provision did not ask for or require any identification and never had I-9 forms completed on employees hired. In more recent years, Southeastern Provision asked for Social Security numbers. However, the managers encouraged workers to submit fake numbers. However, it still did not ever complete I-9 forms.

By hiring undocumented workers, Southeastern Provision was able to avoid not only immigration laws but also wage and hour laws and OSHA regulations. Workers were paid in cash, between $6 to $10 per hour, without any overtime pay. The government contends Brantley avoided nearly $1.3 million in federal payroll taxes over the past decade plus unemployment and workers’ comp premiums. On his tax returns, he claimed most of his employees did not exist.

Despite losing almost all of its workforce, Southeastern Provision remains in business.

If you want to know more information on issues related to employer immigration compliance, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at