Photo snapshots depicting envelopes full of cash sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (endearingly known as ICE) from an employee at an organic farm in Duvall led to a $1 million fine being handed down U.S. District Court in Seattle yesterday.
According to an Associated Press story, Duvall-based HerbCo International Inc. was the recipient of the major monetary punishment, the penalty for firing, then rehiring illegal immigrants following a federal audit. According to the AP story, three HerbCo officials, including CEO Ted Andrews, also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges stemming from the company's apparent addiction to illegal, under-the-table labor.
From the AP account:
Prosecutors say HerbCo fired nearly 90 illegal immigrants because of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement audit. But they say it rehired some of those workers, paid them cash and asked them to work at night because production began to drop.
Apparently someone wasn't happy about the situation, as the AP story indicates a HerbCo employee was behind the photos that led to yesterday's find being leveled.
According to the farm's website, HerbCo was founded by an organic farm owner and a marketing specialist, and, among other accomplishments, was the first Northwest grower to "provide local year-round availability of certified organic fresh herbs."
Also according to the HerbCo website:
While the farm has since changed ownership, the passion for quality, innovation and customer service is as strong as ever.
Originally farmed on 40 acres of land organically farmed for almost 100 years, the increasing demand for organics led to the purchase of another 160 acre farm in 2006, also organically tended for decades. This land is certified organic by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, and is farmed using GAP, or Good Agricultural Practices.
Obviously, GAP doesn't cover where you get your labor.
The only silver lining in all this for HerbCo is the $1 million dollar fine is to be paid over five years - spreading out the pain just a little.