Federal prosecutors say a Duvall herb company went to great lengths to conceal undocumented workers after it learned of a government investigation.
In paperwork filed Monday in United States District Court in Seattle, assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Reno, Jr. said HerbCo fired more than 86 workers that immigration agents determined were illegal immigrants. Records show the company employed more than 200 undocumented workers in recent years.
Reno said the company then secretly rehired some of those workers last year. Those workers were the most productive employees. Reno said HerbCo executives called the two dozen illegal workers their “A-team.”
Prosecutors said those workers were assigned to a newly created nightshift at the company’s Duvall packing plant. They were paid at least $40,000 in wages under the table before a HerbCo employee tipped investigators last year.
The documents say HerbCo hired the A-team because it had such a problem meeting customer demands with temporary workers hired through an employment service. The company had the illegal workers report to duty at night after all the temporary workers had gone home for the day.
Prosecutors are asking that the company and three top executives pay a $1,000,000 fine. HerbCo CEO Edward “Ted” Williamson, VP David Lykins, and GM Debra Rae Howard and scheduled to enter pleas and be sentenced next month to charges of concealing illegal workers.
HerbCo was one of pioneers of organic farming in Washington state. HerbCo’s annual sales are approximately $25,000,000 from products that are sold in 2,700 grocery stores nationwide.
CEO Ted Andrews and his attorney refused to comment about the case when KING 5 broke the story of the investigation last week.