Mary's Gone Crackers suspected of hiding illegal immigrants
The US Justice Department is investigating a well-known organic cookie and cracker maker in Gridley, suspected of using illegal workers and lying about it.
Federal authorities served search warrants on Thursday morning at Mary's Gone Crackers in the 100 block of Kentucky Street, according to Lauren Horwood, a Justice Department spokeswoman.
"This was part of an ongoing investigation into possible misrepresentations made to (US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) regarding the employment of certain people," Horwood said.
It was not an immigration raid and no arrests have been made, the Justice Department said.
"No criminal charges have been filed yet," Horwood said.
A call to Mary's Gone Cracker's office was not returned.
Founded in 2006 by Paradise husband-and-wife Dale Rodrigues and Mary Walder, Mary's Gone Crackers specializes in vegan, organic and kosher snack foods.
"Mary's Gone Crackers has assembled a terrific team of people committed to getting our fabulous crackers, cookies and pretzel sticks onto store shelves and into your kitchen," according to a statement on the company's website.
According to a search warrant filed in US District Court, investigators believe at least 49 of the company's 159 employees could not show proper documentation during an audit in March. Many documents submitted were suspected of being fraudulent, including all 49 Social Security numbers.
A company official told immigration investigators in May that 48 of the 49 employees in question had either been fired or had resigned for failing to provide legal documentation, according to the search warrant.
The employees included 13 supervisors who authorities believe the company fired and then rehired a week later, giving all 13 assumed names to conceal their real identities from government officials, according to the warrant.
During a plant inspection on April 3, the 13 supervisors were told not to report to work and, instead, ordered to meet at a restaurant in Yuba City, according to the search warrant.
"The employees were told that they need to be hidden from detection by immigration personnel," the warrant states.
Horwood said the next step for officials is to examine the computers and other electronic equipment seized on Thursday.
CONTACT Rob Parsons at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Facebook at /ADcrimebeat or on Twitter at @ADcrimebeat.