The owners of Southeastern Provisions, the slaughterhouse at the center of Thursday’s IRS and ICE raid, had been fined in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for failing to follow USDA guidleines.
Read more: 10 face federal charges after ICE raid
Documents show James M. Brantley and James H. Brantley, the owners of Southeastern Provisions, were cited for failing to properly operate their scales when they purchased livestock. According to a complaint issued in December 2011, the Brantleys failed to:
- Use hooks, rollers, gambrels and other equipment of uniform weight
- Have a printing device connected to the scale
- Have a tare that was based on the average weight of the hooks
- pay according to recorded hot weights.
The company was fined $5,000.
A WATE 6 On Your Side investigation in March revealed well water near the plant was contaminated by coliform and E.coli. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation says the cause of the contamination was the failure of a septic system from Southeastern Provisions.
James H. Brantley is listed in the court documents as a 99 percent owner of Southeastern Provisions. Brantley is also mentioned in a search warrant affidavit as the president/general manager of the company, along with his wife, Pamela. The affidavit alleges that the Brantleys would withdraw large sums of cash from their bank to pay employees.
When bank employees questioned the transactions, the affidavit said they were told the cash was used for payroll. Investigators say $25 million in cash was withdrawn from the bank accounts beginning in 2008.
According to the affidavit, when bank officials toured the slaughterhouse in December 2016, they were told most of the employees were Hispanic and paid weekly in cash. Officials also saw a bank vault being readied for installation.
During the raid of the slaughterhouse, 97 people were found who were subject to removal from the United States. Ten of those were arrested on federal criminal charges, one on state charges and 86 on administrative charges. Of the 86 administrative arrests, 54 were placed in detention and 32 were released.
A confidential informant working for law enforcement was hired by Southeastern Provisions and told law enforcement he never completed any paperwork nor was he required to show any identification or documentation before being hired. The informant said he was told he didn’t need a lawful identity to work at the company. He also reported he was paid in cash given to him in an envelope. The informant said most of the 60-70 employees he saw working were Hispanic.
The production workers were required to work overtime without being paid extra for their overtime hours, according to the informant. He said they were also required to work with harsh chemicals, including bleach mixed with other cleaning agents, without proper eye protection.
The informant told officials he knew several of the employees used to work at another meatpacking plant in Morristown, but were fired because their paperwork was fraudulent.
After the raid, detained workers were taken to the National Guard Armory in Morristown