COLUMBIA The manager of a Greenville poultry plant has been indicted on a charge he knowingly hired illegal immigrants.
Barry Cronic, manager of Columbia Farms, began hiring illegal workers in 2000 and kept hiring them until a plant raid in October, according to an indictment handed up Wednesday.
During the raid employees screamed and scrambled to get away, but agents blocked the entrances and found more than 300 workers who were in the U.S. illegally, most of them from Mexico or Central American countries, authorities said.
Personnel manager Elaine Crump also was indicted Wednesday on a similar charge. She already faces 20 counts of telling workers to use falsified immigration documents and has pleaded not guilty.
Mr. Cronic's indictment marked another step up the organizational ladder at Columbia Farms. The plant is owned by House of Raeford. Prosecutors have refused to say if the probe would eventually end up at corporate headquarters.
"This isn't the end of the investigation. We're following the information where it goes," Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin McDonald said.
Court records didn't list an attorney for Mr. Cronic, and a phone listing for him couldn't be found. Ms. Crump's lawyer was handling a case out of state and couldn't be reached.
Most of the more than 300 illegal workers swept up in the raid have been deported, Mr. McDonald said. He added that about 20 others have pleaded guilty and are serving time in prison for criminal charges such as using illegal documents and false Social Security numbers or re-entering the country illegally.
Officials with House of Raeford didn't return a phone call seeking comment. The company has said that it doesn't knowingly hire illegal immigrants and is cooperating with investigators.
The Raeford, N.C., company processes chickens and turkeys in plants in North Carolina, South Carolina and Louisiana. Its Greenville plant remained closed for less than a month after the raid.