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  1. #1
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
    PARADISE (San Diego)

    Michigan Couple Busted In Scheme To Employ Illegal Aliens

    Michigan Couple Busted In Scheme To Employ Illegal Immigrants

    December 21, 2015 1:36 PM

    MARLETTE, Mich. (AP) – Agents went undercover to build a case against a couple in Michigan’s Thumb region who are charged with conspiring to supply dairy farms with workers who were living in the U.S. illegally.

    A criminal complaint filed in federal court describes a long-running scheme that involved phony identification and trips to a bank to cash nearly $2 million in paychecks.

    Yolanda and Ralph Stewart of Sanilac County were released on bond last week. Messages seeking comment from their lawyer weren’t immediately returned Monday.

    Investigators say Yolanda Stewart charged workers as much as $450 to get a job at dairy farms.

    It’s not the first case. In 2011, the owners of a 5,000-cow farm near Bad Axe were placed on probation for employing dozens of people who were in the U.S. illegally.


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  2. #2
    Administrator Jean's Avatar
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    May 2006

    Marlette pair charged in illegal alien scheme

    Beth LeBlanc, Times Herald 5:36 p.m. EST December 21, 2015

    A Marlette couple is facing federal charges of transporting and harboring illegal aliens after an investigation that uncovered fake identification documents and “stash houses” at Thumb area dairy farms.

    According to a complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Yolanda and Ralph Stewart transported illegal immigrants to and from eastern Michigan dairy farms for work.

    The complaint alleges Yolanda Stewart also helped workers cash at least $1.8 million in paychecks, send wire transfers totaling at least $81,068 to their home countries, and helped the workers to shop for necessities.

    “… Yolanda Stewart helps shield the illegal aliens from detection by law enforcement and immigration authorities and enables the employers to harbor the illegal aliens,” the complaint reads.

    Paul Beggs, Yolanda and Ralph Stewart’s lawyer, said the husband and wife plan to cooperate with federal officials.

    “These two people were acting as good Samaritans in terms of what they thought,” Beggs said.

    Beggs said the couple were arrested and charged last week in federal court. He said Ralph, 63, and Yolanda, 59, were both released from custody on an unsecured $50,000 bond.

    They return to court in early January.

    “They’re certainly, in my estimation, no threat to anybody,” Beggs said.

    The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations began its investigation into Yolanda Stewart in January 2012 after receiving information from a law enforcement agency.

    According to the complaint, she and Ralph Stewart transported an undercover ICE agent from Toledo to a dairy farm in Bad Axe for $500. She also indicated to the agent that she could provide fake identification and Social Security documents for an additional $200.

    “Yolanda Stewart told the (undercover agent) that she helps Mexicans at nine or ten different area farms and has been doing so for approximately thirteen years,” the complaint reads.

    According to the complaint, the agent witnessed Yolanda call someone for a green card and Social Security number for the agent. Telephone records indicate Stewart called that same number more than 500 times, including 20 times on the drive from Toledo to Bad Axe.

    She also called the dairy farm and said the undercover agent’s papers had been stolen, but she was working on getting new ones.

    The agent also heard Yolanda Stewart call a farm owner to warn the workers not to go out anywhere because "Immigration" would be in Bad Axe, the complaint reads.

    According to the complaint, the agent asked Yolanda if the farms paid her for providing workers.

    “Yolanda Stewart answered, ‘[S]ome do and some don’t. If I have to go like two or three hours to take someone to a job, then they do pay me …their bosses do,’” the complaint reads.

    In February 2013, Yolanda Stewart was stopped by Bad Axe police with what they discovered were five illegal aliens employed at a dairy farm in Ruth.

    The workers said Stewart was taking them to cash their paychecks at a bank — a service for which she charged each worker $10. One of the workers told an ICE agent that Yolanda Stewart had picked him up in Detroit and brought him to a dairy farm in Cass City for a $100 fee.

    According to the report, from May 2009 to March 2013, Stewart cashed about 1,670 checks totaling more than $1.8 million for workers from dairy farms in Ruth and Cass City.

    The report also said, between January 2008 and May 2013, Yolanda Stewart made 150 MoneyGram transactions for workers, totaling $81,068.

    During a May 2013 search of dairy farms in Ruth and Cass City, ICE agents found “stash houses” where the workers lived. Of the 18 employees at those houses, 15 were illegal.

    The workers said Yolanda helped the immigrants to leave the farms, take care of their needs and then return safely to the farms.

    “The illegal workers indicated that Yolanda Stewart had slowed or stopped much of those activities after the traffic stop in Bad Axe earlier in the year,” the report reads.

    However, according to the complaint, in September 2013, Stewart also helped someone awaiting a deportation hearing at the Huron County jail to get to work at a Harbor Beach dairy farm. She charged $50.

    Beggs said he’s unsure why federal officials waited until late 2015 to charge his clients when the last incidents listed in the complaint occurred in 2013.

    “To me, it feels politically motivated,” Beggs said. “There’s a lot of discussion in the public domain now about immigration, about refugees.”

    A call and email to a spokeswoman at the U.S. Attorneys Office were not immediately returned.
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