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Two RDO potato farm supervisors indicted in Neb. ICE raid

FARGO, N.D. -- Two supervisors on a Nebraska fresh potato farm operated by R.D. Offutt Company in Fargo are among those indicted in an illegal immigration sting on Wednesday by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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Two supervisors of an farm at Elkhorn River Farms LLC of O’Neill, Neb., were caught up in a federal indictment over knowingly hiring people not in the country with legal permission. The three-state sting did not name the farm or its R.D. Offutt Company parent company, with headquarters at Fargo, N.D., as defendants. Photo taken Aug. 9, 2018, Fargo, N.D. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)

FARGO, N.D. - Two supervisors on a Nebraska fresh potato farm operated by R.D. Offutt Company in Fargo are among those indicted in an illegal immigration sting on Wednesday by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Mark Dickerson, director of communications for RDO, confirmed that Elkhorn River Farms LLC is part of their farming company. Dickerson said RDO is "aware of the situation and working with authorities."

The Nebraska Secretary of State's office lists Elkhorn River Farms LLC as being in business since 1997. O'Neill, Neb., has a population of 3,600 and is about 120 miles south and west of Mitchell, S.D., and 30 miles south of Pickstown, S.D.

A conspiracy indictment filed July 17 in U.S. District Court did not include the farm itself or RDO as defendants. Among 39 individuals and business entities were Eric Beringer and Christopher Thurlow, both U.S. citizens and supervisors at the potato farm. It says they assisted in employing people living in the country without legal permission, including one, Jaime Garcia Cota, who "they documented under a false identity at their company, with knowledge and reckless disregard" for his immigration status.

RDO attorney Paul Noah on Thursday referred questions to Dickerson. Dickerson could not immediately confirm an Omaha World Herald newspaper report that 20 people worked at Elkhorn River Farm or how many, if any, of those employees may have been detained or are still detained. He could not offer information about the status of either Thurlow or Beringer. He said he thought RDO is not involved in any other issues with immigration rules.

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The primary defendants in the indictment included Juan "Pablo" Sanchez Delgado, his wife and a son. Prosecutors say the three and other co-conspirators fostered employment for workers living in the country without legal permission in Nebraska, Minnesota and Nevada. The indictment says they operated two companies, "JP and Sons LLC" and "J Green Valley LLC" for the purpose of providing unlawful employment to workers without documentation in Nebraska, Minnesota and Nevada.

The indictment said Pablo and others failed to verify the identities of workers supplied to the companies under contract. They used "different names and Social Security numbers for the aliens with the companies they contracted with to provide the alien workforce in order to conceal the aliens' identities and immigration status. Defendants helped aliens who had overstayed temporary visas to obtain unlawful employment in the U.S. under false identities."

The indictment identifies an employee of Great Western Bank who helped convert paychecks of the workers in the country without legal permission employed by JP and Sons LLC. According to the indictment, more than $8 million since Jan. 1, 2015, had been transferred to countries in Central and South America.

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