HerbCo International, Inc., and 3 of their top executives admitted to knowingly hiring illegal aliens at their Duvall packing facility in Washington State. HerbCo International is a Washington-based supplier of fresh organic herbs to nearly 2,700 grocers across the U.S.
A Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) audit of the company’s Forms I-9 concluded that more than 200 of the 300 forms reviewed were suspect. Subsequently, HerbCo executives reported to HSI they laid off all suspected illegal workers.
However, court documents assert HerbCo rehired certain illegal aliens for a secret night shift and paid them in cash. HerbCo officials told investigators their replacement labor did not have the packing skills needed to keep pace with orders. To keep up with orders, HerbCo devised a plan to rehire approximately 25 of their most efficient, previously fired workers.
HerbCo called them the “A-Team.” The A-Team worked select secret night shifts from late April to early June 2011. Workers were paid in cash. Company executives withdrew approximately $40,000 in cash from company accounts to compensate the illegal workers.
According to Brad Bench, acting special agent in charge for HSI Seattle,
“In the midst of an I-9 administrative audit, HerbCo hired and concealed unauthorized workers. It was a brazen move that compelled us to initiate a criminal investigation. HSI is working to reduce the demand for illegal workers by targeting those who hire them. Businesses that engage in this unlawful practice should take note of the significant penalties and take proactive steps to comply with the law.”
HerbCo was ordered to pay $1,000,000 for knowingly hiring unauthorized workers.