Tyson Foods Execs Indicted for Alien Smuggling

A federal grand jury in Tennessee indicted executives and managers of Tyson Foods Inc. on charges of conspiring to smuggle illegal aliens to the company's poultry processing plants, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

A 36-count indictment unsealed Wednesday said Tyson's managers tolerated the hiring of illegal aliens to meet production goals and cut costs.

The company aided the immigrants by obtaining false documents so they could work at Tyson poultry processing plants ``under the false pretense of being legally employable,'' the department said, quoting the indictment.

Undercover agents working for Tysons were directed by company managers to pick up immigrants at the U.S.-Mexican border and transport them to processing plants in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, Missouri and Arkansas, the indictment said.

The undercover agents were paid by Tysons for ``recruitment'' expenses, it said.

The case comes in the wake of a border control crackdown following the Sept. 11 attacks.

``This case represents the first time the INS has taken action against a company of Tyson's magnitude,'' said James Ziglar, commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The indictment charges two corporate executives, Robert Hash, vice president of the retail fresh division, and Gerald Lankford, former human resources manager. Four other former managers are also named.

The indictment is the result of a 21/2-year undercover investigation by the INS.

Fifteen plants were implicated in the conspiracy.