U.S. Attorney and ICE Director give update on 2019 ICE raids in Mississippi

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst, along with officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, gave an update on Thursday about last years ICE raids in Mississippi. They announced the unsealing of indictments returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Mississippi against four individuals.

The individuals were were managers, supervisors or human resources personnel at companies where the search warrants were executed in August 2019. During the raids, 680 illegal immigrants were detained.

“This office has a successful history of prosecuting employers for violating our immigration laws, and today marks another step in ensuring that justice is fairly and impartially done, no matter the law-breaker. I want to thank our partners at ICE Homeland Security Investigations and our office’s federal prosecutors for doggedly pursuing these criminal violations.  The indictments unsealed today mark the beginning, not the end, of our investigations and prosecutions.  Rest assured that we will continue to pursue criminal wrongdoers and enforce our criminal laws wherever the evidence may take us,” said Hurst.

“The results of this ongoing criminal investigation illustrate the importance of strong interior enforcement. The arrests made last year pursuant to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s execution of more than a dozen search warrants, have thus far yielded 126 indictments, 117 criminal arrests and 73 convictions. In total, more than 403 individuals falsified social security information in order to gain illegal employment in the United States,” said acting ICE deputy director and senior official performing the duties of the director Matthew T. Albence. “Companies who intentionally or knowingly base their business model on an illegal workforce deprive law abiding citizens and lawful immigrants of employment opportunities, which are especially critical as our economy looks to recover from the challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic. ICE Homeland Security Investigations will continue its commitment to uphold the laws Congress has passed. These laws protect jobs for the legal workforce, reduce incentives for illegal migration, and eliminate unequitable financial advantages for businesses employing illegal immigrants.”

The four indictments are listed below:

Case against Salvador Delgado-Nieves

According to the indictment, Salvador Delgado-Nieves, 57, of Pelahatchie, was charged with three counts of harboring illegal immigrants, three counts of assisting illegal immigrants in falsely representing themselves to be United States citizens, three counts of assisting illegal immigrants in obtaining false Social Security cards, and one count of making a false statement to law enforcement officials when he denied having hired illegal immigrants at A&B, Inc. in Pelahatchie.

Delgado-Nieves faces up to 74 years in federal prison and $2.5 million in fines for these criminal violations, as Counts 1-6 carry a maximum of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation, Counts 7-9 carry a maximum of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count, and Count 10 carries a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Case against Iris Villalon

According to the indictment, Iris Villalon, 44, of Ocean Springs, was indicted on one count of harboring an illegal immigrant, and one count of making false statements when she denied that she had hired illegal immigrants for employment with A&B, Inc., in Pelahatchie, and one count of causing false employer quarterly wage reports to be filed when she knew the Social Security number represented in such reports was not assigned by the Social Security Administration to that specific illegal immigrant employee listed therein. 

Villalon faces up to 20 years in prison and $750,000 in fines for these criminal violations, as Count 1 carries a maximum of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and Counts 2-3 carry a maximum of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.

Case against Carolyn Johnson and Aubrey “Bart” Willis

According to the indictment, Carolyn Johnson, 50, of Kosciuskio, was a Human Resource Manager and Aubrey “Bart” Willis, 39, of Flowery Branch, Georgia, was the Manager at Pearl River Foods LLC in Carthage. Johnson was indicted on six felony counts of harboring an illegal immigrant as well as one count of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft. Willis was indicted on five counts of harboring an illegal immigrant. 

The indictment charges both defendants with harboring illegal immigrants following the execution of federal warrants at the Pearl River Foods facility on August 7, 2019.  Johnson was also indicted for fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a grant from the State of Mississippi for reimbursement for on the job training for employees of Pearl River Foods. As set forth in the indictment, Johnson submitted claims for reimbursement for on the job training that never occurred.

If convicted, Johnson faces a maximum of up to 84 years in prison and $2.25 million in fines, with Counts 1-6 carrying a maximum of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation, Count 7 carrying a maximum of twenty years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation, and Counts 8-9 carrying a mandatory minimum of 2 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation.

If convicted, Willis faces a maximum of up to 50 years and $1.25 million in fines, Counts 1-5 carrying a maximum of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation.

Villalon, Johnson and Willis will appear for arraignment before United States Magistrate Judge Linda R. Anderson on Thursday, August 6, at 1:30 p.m. Delgado-Nieves will appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Ball at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 6, for his arraignment.

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