Monday, December 03, 2007
Happy Apples employed Undocumented Workers. Business official pleads guilty to hiring undocumented workers. They have to sell their product in a certain price range, so that may affect certain companies. It may mean they can't afford to continue operating their business.
An official with Lochirco Fruit and Produce pleaded guilty to knowingly hiring Undocumented Immigrants.
Joette Reidy, 40, whose maiden name is Lochirco, of Washington, Mo., pleaded guilty to one felony count of hiring Undocumented Workers. Lochirco Fruit and Produce, which does business as Happy Apples, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of hiring Undocumented Workers.
The company admitted to employing Undocumented workers between 2001 and Oct. 19, 2006. Federal agents raided the property and arrested 33 Undocumented workers.The Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) became aware of the illegal workers during a drug investigation, said Richard Sindel, attorney for Lochirco Fruit and Produce.
"The company had no idea there was someone suspected of having drugs working for them," Sindel said.
Lochirco Fruit and Produce officials agreed to pay $599,000 in fines, which includes forfeiting three properties in Marthasville and another in Union.
The Marthasville properties include 201 S. Three St. and 300 and 305 N. Three St.
The company makes caramel apples and apple cider and sells fresh apples. It has orchards and facilities in Marthasville, Washington and Union.
Reidy also faces a prison term of no more than five years and a fine of up to $250,000.
The jobs pay from $6 to $8 an hour and frequently require long hours, sometimes up to 16 hours a day. Lochirco Fruit and Produce housed some of its workers in company-owned housing.
"I think it's difficult to find dedicated workers," Sindel said. "It's hard work. The company has had problems with people showing up one day and just leaving."
The company hired 60 to 70 seasonal workers by fall 2006. Many of them were illegal immigrants, according to the plea agreement.
"Businesses (such as Lochirco) will need to be more cautious than they have been in the past," Sindel said. "That may have an impact. They have to sell their product in a certain price range, so that may affect certain companies. It may mean they can't afford to continue operating their business."
Different parts of the country see the issue differently.
"When I go to southern California, everybody says, 'We couldn't survive without (Undocumented immigrants),'" Sindel said. "They wouldn't have produce workers, store clerks, short-order cooks. We're dependent on them in some ways to keep our economy going."
He noted recent legislation submitted by President George W. Bush, which was rejected by Congress, acknowledged that.
"We need to do something about the way we look at it," Sindel said. "It's crazy right now