Grainger County slaughterhouse owner pleads guilty after ICE raid

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The owner of a Grainger County slaughterhouse has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from April’s raid of the facility by immigration agents.

James Brantley, 51, agreed to plead guilty to two counts of failure to collect taxes, one count of employing illegal aliens and one count of wire fraud. The plea agreement filed last month also says he will pay $1,296,183 in restitution to the IRS and $127,405 to BerkleyNet.

The plea was accepted in federal court on Wednesday. Brantley was then released from jail on $20,000 recognizance bond.

“The April 2018 raid on Southeastern Provision came after a lengthy investigation by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations and Homeland Security Investigations and resulted in the discovery of the unlawful employment of many illegal aliens and the seizure of voluminous records which documented the operation of Mr. Brantley’s wire and tax fraud schemes,” said U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey.  “The agents and prosecutors working on this case have diligently poured over the records and evidence since the raid to ensure that charging Mr. Brantley would result in bringing him to justice and ultimately his conviction. With this guilty plea, that has been accomplished.”

During the raid on Southeastern Provision in Bean Station, 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 search warrant affidavit obtained by WATE 6 On Your Side revealed that federal authorities were tipped off by bank employees about large cash withdrawals from Citizens Bank in Morristown made by employees of Southeastern Provisions.

An investigation revealed that James Brantley and his wife Pamela Brantley, along with their daughter Kelsey Brantley and Priscilla Keck, an employee, were withdrawing cash to pay employees at the slaughterhouse.

Investigators say $25 million in cash was withdrawn from the bank accounts beginning in 2008.

Sentencing is set for February 4. He faces up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release for the tax counts. He faces up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release on the fraud charges. Finally, he faces up to six months in prison and a fine of no more than $3,000 per unauthorized alien on the employment of unauthorized alien charge.

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