The U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) charged 148 illegal aliens, swept up in raids of six Swift & Co. packing plants last month ("Federal Sweep Of Illegal Workers Hits Six Swift Plants," Dec. 15 BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly), with federal identity theft.

A DOJ news release says 108 were charged with aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years imprisonment. Others will be charged with illegal reentry by an aggravated felon, document fraud, Social Security fraud, and identity theft. State charges of identity theft, forgery and criminal impersonation are also being pressed against 98 other defendants.

During the Dec. 12 raids of six Swift plants, agents apprehended 1,282 workers on administrative immigration violations. Of the 148 workers charged with federal criminal violations, 53 were in Texas, 30 in Iowa, 20 in Minnesota, 26 in Nebraska, 18 in Utah, and one Colorado.

Julie Myers, Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary, said: "Our message is simple: No employee in any industry who uses a stolen identity is immune from law enforcement action."

Evidence uncovered during Operation Wagon Train, which began in February 2006, suggests defendants assumed the identities of actual U.S. citizens, using stolen Social Security numbers and other identity documents to get jobs with Swift. Federal authorities said many of the names and Social Security numbers were reported stolen by identity theft victims to the Federal Trade Commission.

In many cases, victims had received letters from the IRS demanding back taxes for income they had not reported because it was earned by someone working under their name. Other victims were denied driver's licenses, credit and medical services because someone had improperly used their personal information before.
-- Joe Roybal