Herb grower receives $1 million fine for illegal labor

05/11/2012 12:44:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

A Duvall, Wash.-based organic herb operation, which ships to nearly 2,700 retailers nationwide, was fined $1 million for firing illegal immigrants, then secretly hiring them back on a night shift to avoid detection.

HerbCo International Inc. officials pled guilty to harboring, concealing or shielding an illegal immigrant and encouraging and inducing an illegal immigrant to reside, according to court documents. In addition, the company was placed on five years’ probation and will have five years to pay the fine.

Three of the company’s executives — Edward Williamson Andrews III, founder and president; David William Lykins Jr., vice president; and Debra Rae Howard, general manager — each pleaded guilty to misdemeanor accounts of aiding and abetting a pattern and practice of employing illegal immigrants, according to court documents. They were placed on one year’s probation.

A former employee reported the company to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In February 2011, the immigration agency warned HerbCo that it planned to audit its I-9 employment verification forms.

The April 2011 audit identified 214 employees that had fraudulent Social Security Numbers. Of those, only 86 were still employed, according to court documents.

Without proper documentation, the company could not continue to employ them, the agency’s auditor told company officials.

On April 21, 2011, HerbCo fired the workers and hired a labor contractor to provide replacements.

But it became apparent that the new workers didn’t have the same packing skills, and customers began complaining, according to court documents. The company hired back 20 to 25 of the fired workers, putting them on a night shift so they wouldn’t be visible to the labor contractor’s employees. The night shift also was paid in cash.

The night shift continued to work from mid-April into June 2011, according to court documents.



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Jorge DeLeone    
Denver Co.  |  May, 11, 2012 at 04:07 PM

Three of the company’s executives — Edward Williamson Andrews III, founder and president; David William Lykins Jr., vice president; and Debra Rae Howard, general manager — each pleaded guilty to misdemeanor accounts of aiding and abetting a pattern and practice of employing illegal immigrants, according to court documents. They were placed on one year’s probation. They should all be in jail for a minimum period of one (1) year. Next offense is 10 years! They should all be in jail!

George    
Salinas  |  May, 14, 2012 at 01:51 PM

The day employers go to jail for hiring illegal immigrants is the day the problem will stop. As long as they have jobs and free health care (at least in California) they will keep coming.

Rafael Toscano    
Yakima WA  |  May, 14, 2012 at 10:46 AM

That's what happens when the so called US Citizens aren't up to the plate. They just can't handle the tough work and companies need to hire illegal immigrants to do the works so companies can put food on American households. These so called Patriots are just good to complaint but when it comes to work they won't lower themselves to do those kinds of jobs. Ask the company and see how much they are going to loose? Ask them how hard it is to hire good reliable citizens to perform those duties??? Ahhh! but ask the Americans to complaint and they are the #1 whiners in the world...

Lisa    
WA State  |  May, 30, 2012 at 12:54 PM

You are correct. Try and find a legal US worker to do the work that needs to be done, in any type of work that requires any physical labor and you will come up short. Ask an employer in any state, and the majority of them will respond the same, they have tried to find dependable knowledgable workers from State unemployment offices, and there were no responses or the workers didn't show up at all or they left after one day. Of those who say the employers should go to jail or be excessively fined, etc., how many would do the jobs they say should only go to 'citizens like them'?

George    
Salinas  |  May, 14, 2012 at 01:49 PM

The day the employers go to jail for hiring illegal immigrants is the day the problem stops. Until that happens nothing will change.

Lisa    
WA State  |  May, 30, 2012 at 12:48 PM

Do you know the legal eligible to work status of the waiters in the restaurants you frequent, of the store clerks in the stores you purchase products from, in the warehouse workers and truck drivers that pack and/or transport the items your purchase for your daily life, of the grocery store employees where you purchase your food, or the newpaper and magazine employees who provide your entertainment, of the sign painters who paint the road directional signs and the advertising billboards where you get your latest updates for what's to buy next, of the gas station attendant where you purchase your fuel, of the..., if you penalize and close down all the locations where you think illegal workers are working in the US -HOW would YOU live?

george    
salinas  |  May, 14, 2012 at 01:50 PM

The day employers go to jail for hiring illegal immigrants is the day the practice will stop.

Charlie    
California  |  May, 30, 2012 at 12:57 PM

This exemplifies how out of touch our current immigration laws are. Simple minds like George think that jailing employers is the solution but the reality of it is that if that happens, we will just force agriculture to other countries much the same way that our manufacturing base went off shore half a century ago. Without common sense immigration reform, the future of US agriculture is in doubt. Unfortunately, small minds cannot see the entire problem and just keep regurgitation their platitudes while we lack politicians with the knowledge and courage to make good laws.

denverspeaksaboutslavery    
Colorado  |  June, 27, 2012 at 05:48 PM

I urge you please to think more globally and sensitively about the ramifications of this problem. 85-93%of undocumented workers do not earn minimum wage yet they live in this country with an ever increasing cost of living. It is probably true that documented workers would not perform backbreaking strenuous of physical labor like illegal workers. They would work at a reasonable and humane pace so that they could live long and healthy lives. They would also demand workers comp if they were hurt on the job, because they are human beings not slaves!!!!!! This is a good thing when legally residing in this country a persons human rights are protected. Undocumented workers can save some money to bring back to their home countries that would far exceed the wages that they earn there and that is why they do it. Unfortunately it creates an enviornment where citizens of this country who expect to have humane working conditions are either out of a job or are deemed lazy or incompetent by idiots who think that their familes deserve cheap herbs, at the expense of those less fortunate than themselves.

denverspeaksaboutslavery    
Colorado  |  June, 27, 2012 at 05:48 PM

I urge you please to think more globally and sensitively about the ramifications of this problem. 85-93%of undocumented workers do not earn minimum wage yet they live in this country with an ever increasing cost of living. It is probably true that documented workers would not perform backbreaking strenuous of physical labor like illegal workers. They would work at a reasonable and humane pace so that they could live long and healthy lives. They would also demand workers comp if they were hurt on the job, because they are human beings not slaves!!!!!! This is a good thing when legally residing in this country a persons human rights are protected. Undocumented workers can save some money to bring back to their home countries that would far exceed the wages that they earn there and that is why they do it. Unfortunately it creates an enviornment where citizens of this country who expect to have humane working conditions are either out of a job or are deemed lazy or incompetent by idiots who think that their familes deserve cheap herbs, at the expense of those less fortunate than themselves.

Denverspeaksaboutslavery    
Colorado  |  June, 27, 2012 at 06:04 PM

Rafael first of all lose as in "Don't lose your wallet!" is spelled LOSE, not loose as in the rope is coming loose. Is cheap food really worth slave labor conditions to you? Americans and anyone else with a conscience in the world should wine about inhumane working conditions that pay almost nothing. Americans are champions for human rights and that is what makes this country GREAT! Americans are not entitled to excessive materialism and entitlement to cheap goods made from exploiting human beings. Organic farms hire college student citizens for no money at all and it is a trade for them to earn farming skills a place to stay and an ability to travel. They may not work like machines but they are absolutley free labor This is called WWOOFing. Threre are so many students doing it that the US would be just fine without slave labor from illegals. FOR REAL!

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