A series of raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents on Wednesday saw 147 arrests made across farm businesses in Minnesota and Nebraska.
Agents led by ICE"s Homeland Security Investigations unit executed a series of criminal warrants at businesses where owners are suspected of exploiting laborers who are in the country illegally.
Some 133 people in the country illegally were arrested as a result of the raid, along with 14 business owners who have been indicted for fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering.
There were 11 businesses caught up in the raids, ICE said, among them Christensen Farms' locations in Sleepy Eye and Appleton in southern Minnesota, as well as in Atkinson, Nebraska.
ICE said that the people found living and working in the U.S. illegally "may ... have been exploited as part of this alleged criminal conspiracy."
In a statement sent to FOX 9, Christensen Farms – a pork producer – said that one of its third party vendors were found to be "not in compliance with immigration policies."
It was "surprised and disappointed" to learn this, it added, saying it expects its third party vendors to "uphold the same high standards as our company."
Some of the aliens will be issued notices to appear before a federal immigration judge and released, while others will be detained by ICE pending court proceedings.
ICE says the owners and managers involved are suspected of colluding "to create an illegal alien workforce in their respective businesses."
"By doing so, they defrauded the U.S. government and created an unfair advantage over their competition businesses," it added.
"Additionally, authorities suspect the illegal aliens who were knowingly hired as part of this alleged conspiracy were exploited by the conspirators through force, coercion, or threat of arrest and/or deportation."
This exploitation included forcing workers to cash their paychecks at an illegal remittance business for a fee, as well as deducting tax money from their pay but never paying it to the government.