The Associated Press
Immigration and Custom Enforcement police stand guard at the entrance of a Swift & Co. meat processing plant in Greeley, Colo., Tuesday, during a raid. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
GREELEY, Colo.- Federal agents raided meat processing plants in six states Tuesday and arrested an unknown number of suspected illegal immigrants in an identity theft investigation.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said the workers were being arrested on administrative immigration violations and in some cases, existing criminal arrest warrants stemming from a nearly yearlong investigation.
The investigation indicated that large numbers of illegal immigrants may have used the Social Security numbers of U.S. citizens or residents to get jobs with Swift & Co. Immigration officials said they and the Federal Trade Commission had identified hundreds of potential victims.
Six Swift processing facilities were raided Tuesday, in Greeley, Colo.; Grand Island, Neb.; Cactus, Texas; Hyrum, Utah; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Worthington, Minn.
The Greeley-based company did not immediately return a phone message Tuesday morning seeking comment.
ICE officials at the plants in Greeley and Worthington, Minn., said the total number of arrests might not be released until Wednesday, when a news conference was scheduled in Washington.
''We have been investigating a large identity theft scheme that has victimized many U.S. citizens and lawful residents,'' said ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez, at the plant in Greeley.
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Gonzalez said federal agents worked closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to try to minimize the disruption at the plants while carrying out the search warrants.