Michigan Couple Charged in Probe of Dairy Farm Labor

December 22, 2015 08:39 AM

Prosecutors have charged a couple from Michigan's Thumb region with conspiring to supply dairy farms with workers who were in the U.S. illegally.

A criminal complaint filed in federal court describes a long-running scheme that involved phony identification, "stash houses," shuttles between Michigan and Ohio and regular stops at a bank to cash nearly $2 million in paychecks over a four-year period.

Yolanda and Ralph Stewart, of Sanilac County, were released on bond last week. Their lawyer, Paul Beggs, didn't immediately respond to Monday phone or email messages seeking comment.

Yolanda Stewart charged workers hundreds of dollars to get a job at dairy farms, authorities allege.

"On numerous occasions, surveillance agents observed Yolanda Stewart driving illegal aliens to and from dairy farms in Huron and Tuscola counties to places where she or the workers cashed ... paychecks," Homeland Security agent John Ross wrote.

She also helped workers send at least $81,000 to their home countries and assisted them with groceries and other necessities, he said.

In May 2012, an undercover agent posing as a laborer was picked up in Toledo, Ohio, and driven to a dairy farm in Bad Axe. Yolanda Stewart said the cost would be $500, plus $200 for fraudulent documents, Ross said.

"Yolanda Stewart told the (agent) that she helps Mexicans at nine or 10 different area farms and has been doing so for approximately 13 years," Ross said.

It's not the first investigation of dairy farm labor in the Thumb region. In 2011, the owners of a 5,000-cow farm near Bad Axe were placed on probation and ordered to pay $2.7 million for employing dozens of people who were in the U.S. illegally.

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Spell Check

vt, VT
12/22/2015 06:50 PM

  How about charging the farmers who hire the illegals?As a dairy farmer who hires Americans and follows the law we are getting sick and tired of competing against farms that flount the law by hiring illegal aliens .

Lubbock, TX
12/24/2015 08:51 AM

  If there were no illegals to do the tough jobs on the dairy, then milk would be $20/gal. White people don't want to do those jobs. The illegals aren't taking jobs from Americans, they are doing the jobs that Americans refuse to do.

cass city , MI
12/31/2015 09:58 AM

  These dutch dairy farms think they can do what ever they want. American laws don't apply. one farm was bought by another and laid of all the employees and brought in illegal,s Maybe we should deport the one's causing the problem, oh money talks. even at 2.7 million that's why they will just have to change the law.


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