After a murder led investigators to discover 17 undocumented workers employed at Red Hill Mushroom Farm in Independence, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite announced Tuesday that the corporation in charge, M.D. Basciani and Sons Inc., will be made to pay $1 million.
U.S. District Judge Jay C. Zainey sentenced the company to three years of probation and ordered it to cooperate with future immigration inspections, in addition to forfeiting the money acquired from illegally employing undocumented workers, said. “We will insist that every dollar in illegal proceeds is forfeited so that this illegal conduct does not pay,” Polite said in a news release.
When a man was shot to death Dec. 13, 2012 in a trailer park north of Tickfaw, an investigation led detectives to a potential suspect working at Red Hill Mushroom Farm. The next month, when Tangipahoa Parish deputies paid a visit to the farm, they found the suspect to be an undocumented immigrant, according to the affidavit of probable cause filed into court records Oct. 8.
Later, federal agents inspected the farm, and in June 2013, agents gave the company a notice that named 17 unauthorized workers employed at Red Hill Mushroom Farm.
Michael Basciani, the company’s co-owner, told a federal agent the employees would have to be fired, but that’s not what happened. M.S. Basciani and Sons Inc., a family-owned business operating mainly out of Pennsylvania, pretended to fire the workers the inspectors had identified and then continued to employ them using different names, court documents show. When agents later visited the farm pretending to follow up on the homicide investigation, they found the same employees the company told agents it would fire.
Management told employees to acquire false papers after the inspection, and the undocumented workers continued to receive paychecks, according to an affidavit submitted by Special Agent John Chakwin III, of the Department of Homeland Security.
M.D. Basciani and Sons Inc. pleaded guilty to one count of harboring illegal aliens, Polite said. The farm’s manager and a supervisory employee previously pleaded guilty to employing undocumented workers, as well, Polite said.
* This article was edited after publication to correct references to U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite.