BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A federal jury convicted a husband and wife yesterday for transporting illegal aliens to provide labor for a local chicken plant, announced U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger.
The jury returned its guilty verdict against Deivin Marquitos Escalante-Vasquez, 31, and Crystal Gail Escalante, 38, both of Haleyville, after 5 days of testimony before Chief U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler. The couple was convicted of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens within the United States and money laundering.
“This conviction demonstrates how individuals willing to break the law can take advantage of immigration laws for personal gain,” U.S. Attorney Escalona said. “More importantly, no matter how sophisticated their efforts, we will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners and agencies to see that the immigration laws are followed, and that those who violate them are caught and convicted.”
“Our nation’s employment laws are designed to protect the legal force and prevent business from profiting under an unequitable financial advantages,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “HSI is committed to protecting our citizens and employees from those who seek to gain an illegal advantage and make illicit profits by putting others at risk.”
The evidence at trial showed that the defendants subcontracted over approximately a three-year period with Mar-Jac Poultry, a poultry processing plant in Jasper, to provide labor to work the lines at the plant. The defendants filled multiple shifts with undocumented workers, many of whom were from Guatemala, who were working under false identifications. Evidence also showed that the defendants knew the identities were false and changed names and identities when necessary to ensure the false identities would get through the E-Verify system. The evidence also showed that, when the identities could not get through the E-Verify confirmation system, the defendants kept the workers on their payroll. The defendants owned several passenger vans and used them to provide their workers transportation to and from the plant, which the jury found furthered the illegal workers’ presence in the United States. Over a three-year period, the defendants were paid over 16 million dollars, and used some of their profits to purchase properties in the Haleyville area, and several high-end vehicles. The properties, vehicles, and the defendants’ bank accounts will be the subject of a future asset forfeiture proceeding.
The maximum penalty for conspiracy to transport illegal aliens in furtherance of their presence in the United States is 10 years in prison. The maximum penalty for money laundering is 20 years in prison.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Russell Penfield, John Hundscheid and Tom Borton are prosecuting the case.