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Published November 16, 2011, 08:24 AM

Thumb farm owners face sentence this week

BAD AXE, Mich. — Businesses that rely on a Thumb dairy farm are urging a judge not to send the owners to jail next week for hiring illegal immigrants.

BAD AXE, Mich. — Businesses that rely on a Thumb dairy farm are urging a judge not to send the owners to jail next week for hiring illegal immigrants.

John and Anja Verhaar are returning to federal court Tuesday, four months after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges. Aquila Farms has agreed to pay a $2.7 million penalty.

The Verhaars have acknowledged employing about 80 illegal immigrants from 2000 through much of 2007. They have turned a small farm into a major 5,000-cow operation in Huron County, 110 miles north of Detroit.

Businesses that provide services to the farm say they would be greatly harmed if the Verhaars go to jail. The couple's attorneys say they have improved their hiring. They also say the farm can't operate if the owners are locked up.

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