CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – A former Tyson Foods employee pleaded guilty to conspiracy Monday, admitting he smuggled illegal immigrants into the country to work for the poultry giant and provided them with fraudulent identification.
Amador Anchondo-Rascon could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and forfeiture of any gains from the alleged conspiracy with Tyson that prosecutors say started in 1994.
U.S. Attorney John MacCoon declined to say if the 43-year-old native of Mexico would testify against six Tyson executives indicted last month on charges of conspiring to smuggle immigrants to work at the company's poultry processing plants.
Anchondo-Rascon, a legal U.S. resident who now operates a grocery store, told U.S. District Judge R. Allen Edgar he brought workers to the Tyson poultry processing plant in Shelbyville and provided them with fraudulent IDs, including Social Security cards.
The judge told Anchondo-Rascon that his sentence, which could include deportation, would depend partly on how much he helps prosecutors. The judge set a May 20 sentencing hearing.
A federal indictment unsealed last month charged Tyson Foods and six former managers, including a vice president, of conspiring to smuggle illegal immigrants to work at plants in nine states.
That indictment says Anchondo-Rascon functioned as an ``illegal recruiter, smuggler and coordinator of transportation for illegal aliens ... and a trafficker in fraudulent documents.''
Tyson vice president Ken Kimbro has denied the conspiracy charge, saying the case involves a ``few managers who were acting outside of company policy at five of our 57 poultry processing plants.''
Prosecutors said Tyson underpaid the illegal workers, but declined to say how many they believe were smuggled into the United States between 1994 and June. A company spokeman said the illegal workers were not paid lower wages.
Anchondo-Rascon's attorney, Michael Friedman, said his client has been cooperating with prosecutors for months and predicted he would testify at any Tyson trial.
``I think it is going to help bring Tyson to the table,'' Friedman said.
A Tyson lawyer attended the hearing but declined to comment.