About 200 federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers raided two locations of an Ohio gardening and landscaping company on the morning of June 5 and arrested 114 workers suspected of being in the country illegally. One business was in the Sandusky suburb of Perkins Township and another in Castalia.
The Sandusky Register cited a statement from Steve Francis, special agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations, who said that federal agents executed criminal search warrants at the two locations, which were owned by Corso’s Flower and Garden Center. The allegations involved harboring and hiring of “illegal aliens,” aggravated identity theft, and impersonation of U.S. persons, Francis said.
ICE agents examined 313 employee records, of which 123 were found suspicious and targeted for arrest and criminal charges of identity theft and, in most cases, tax evasion. But the execution of warrants represents just the beginning of the investigation, said Francis.
“Now the agents and officers will start conducting interviews,” Francis told the Register. “We are attempting to identify what criminal network brought over 100 illegal aliens to Ohio to work. We are looking at the employers or other networks that are smuggling individuals into the U.S. and finding them places of employment.”
The illegal aliens who were arrested will be detained, pending removal proceedings, at facilities in Ohio and Michigan, ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls told the media.
On June 6, Walls told NPR that some of those who were picked up had been released for a variety of humanitarian reasons, “including health, or primary care for a minor child.”
NPR member station WOSU reported that the investigation into Corso’s began in October 2017 after Border Patrol agents arrested a woman running a document forgery business. She led authorities to the landscaping stores, where officials said they found irregularities in employee files, including Social Security numbers belonging to deceased people.
Walls told NPR no criminal charges have been filed against the Corso's owners, but he added, “the investigation is still ongoing.”
Image: Screenshot from ICE.gov