3 ex-poultry workers arraigned

Three more former House of Raeford Farms workers were arraigned Thursday on charges of using fake IDs to work for the company's Greenville plant, which is still at the center of an illegal immigration investigation.

Victor Cruz-Soto, Daniel Badillo-Baca and Nain Zarate-Camarero were indicted on charges of using counterfeit IDs to gain employment, identity theft, and making a false statement to a federal agency. They were arrested in July.

Handcuffed and wearing red jumpsuits, the men remained silent as a federal judge entered pleas of not guilty on their behalf, explained their rights and placed detention orders on them because they were in the country illegally.

Each of the three men nodded and then quietly said “yes” when asked if they understood the charges. The three held supervisor roles at the plant and filled out employment eligibility forms in 2006 or 2007 using a permanent resident alien number or Social Security number that was invalid or belonged to another person, prosecutors allege.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement launched a work-site investigation of House of Raeford's Greenville plant late last year. Agents reviewed company files and workers' employment eligibility forms, known as I-9 forms.

In a February series on working conditions in the poultry industry, the Observer reported that some House of Raeford managers knew they employed undocumented workers, according to five current and former managers. The vast majority of the line workers, they said, are in the country illegally.

House of Raeford has said it doesn't knowingly hire undocumented workers and regularly asks outside counsel to audit company records and hiring practices. “We take all necessary efforts to comply with applicable law, including immigration laws,” the company wrote in a recent statement.

Cruz-Soto, Badillo-Baca and Zarate-Camarero are expected to be back in court within two months for a pretrial hearing where they will be given the opportunity to change their pleas.

Earlier this month, seven former supervisors at the plant pleaded guilty to almost the exact same charges. They face up to two years in prison and are expected to be deported afterward.

Since publication of the series, 11 House of Raeford employees have been arrested on immigration violations, including the Greenville plant's human resources manager, Elaine Crump, for allegedly instructing employees to use fraudulent employment eligibility forms. She is expected back in federal court in October for a pretrial hearing.