After a months-long investigation, ICE and the IRS raided a Tennessee meatpacking plant whose owners are suspected of hiring illegal aliens to avoid paying payroll taxes.

Knoxville News reports:

Federal agents raided a Bean Station, Tennessee slaughterhouse Thursday after a months-long probe into allegations the owners were paying undocumented immigrants cash to avoid paying $2.5 million in payroll taxes in three years, federal court records show.

Agents raided Southeastern Provisions, a cattle slaughterhouse on Helton Road in Grainger County, as part of a probe into myriad claims of tax evasion and fraud involving millions of dollars in unpaid taxes in a scheme that could stretch back a decade.

IRS Criminal Investigation Agent Nicholas R. Worsham wrote in a search warrant affidavit that James Brantley and his wife, Pamela Brantley, who own the slaughterhouse and meat-packing firm, have been hiring undocumented immigrants since 2008 and hiding it from the IRS.

. . . .  ICE officials reported 97 people were found inside the slaughterhouse when agents and Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers raided it. ICE said in a statement that “10 of those encountered were arrested on federal criminal charges.”

But there were no federal warrants or indictments related to the raid filed in the U.S. District Court electronic filing system Friday afternoon.

ICE said 86 people were held pursuant to an administrative hold to check immigration status. Of those, 54 were detained for further immigration proceedings.

The investigation was apparently triggered because bank officials were concerned that “the Brantleys had withdrawn more than $25 million in cash since 2008 and told bank personnel they used the money ‘for payroll’.”

Knoxville News continues:

“Bank personnel began noticing large amounts of cash being withdrawn from the Southeastern Provisions bank accounts,” the affidavit stated. “The cash withdrawals occurred on a weekly basis.”

Worsham later confirmed the Brantleys had withdrawn more than $25 million in cash since 2008 and told bank personnel they used the money “for payroll.” Although it’s not clear why, bank personnel “conducted a site visit” at the plant in December 2016 and learned the Brantleys had installed a vault to keep cash.

Agents later surveilled the Brantleys and employees as they made those weekly cash withdrawals. Worsham said the Brantleys withdrew $10.9 million in cash from 2013 to 2016 but only reported to the IRS paying workers $2.5 million.