Two Michigan dairy farms and their owner have been sentenced following charges of employing and harboring illegal aliens. The sentencing comes after an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), announced United States Attorney Matthew J. Schneider.
On September 21, 2017, Denis Burke’s, spouse, Madeline Burke, was sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to pay a fine of $187,500 for her offense. Six other co-conspirators who assisted in transporting the illegal aliens were arrested during the course of the investigation; four of the co-conspirators were sentenced to prison time on felony charges.
Denis Burke owns Duganstown Dairy and Parisville Dairy, which has operations based in Cass City and Ruth, Michigan. Court records revealed that from about 2008 through 2013, the dairies employed at least 100 different illegal aliens, which constituted more than 80 percent of its workforce over that time period.
Denis Burke and the farms knowingly employed illegal aliens and harbored the aliens by shielding them from detection by immigration authorities. Burke pleaded guilty and was sentenced to serve 24 months in addition to fine of $187,500. The two farms were ordered to pay a total of $1.2 million in lieu of forfeiture
"Criminal charges coupled with fines and forfeiture are among the government's most effective tools to ensure employers maintain a legal workforce," said Steve Francis, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Detroit. "The charges and significant fines here represent HSI's firm commitment to holding employers accountable."
According to the stipulated facts in the plea agreement, over a period of years Burke knowingly hired illegal aliens - some of who were hired on multiple occasions using different social security numbers. Burke encouraged or induced the illegal aliens to reside in the United States by providing them with employment and free housing on his farms, away from scrutiny by HSI and the surrounding community.
In total, 20 of Burke’s illegal alien employees were discovered during the execution of federal search warrants at the farms. Those illegal workers were administratively arrested by immigration authorities, while four of the illegal aliens were criminally prosecuted for having reentered the U.S. after having been deported previously.
The case was initiated based on information provided by the Huron County Sheriff’s Office and was investigated by HSI special agents. Many state and local law enforcement agencies assisted with the investigation. The Bay City U.S. Attorney’s office prosecuted the case.