Immigration agents investigating ID thefts raid meat processing plants in 6 states

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Immigration agents investigating ID thefts raid meat processing plants in 6 states

Updated 12/12/2006 12:40 PM ET

From staff and wire reports

GREELEY, Colo. Federal agents raided six Swift & Co. processing plants across the country this morning and arrested an unknown number of suspected illegal immigrants in an identity theft investigation.

Warrants were served at Swift facilities in Greeley, Colo.; Grand Island, Neb.; Cactus, Texas; Hyrum, Utah; Marshalltown, Iowa, and Worthington, Minn., according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

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. An ICE official said the agency and the Federal Trade Commission had identified hundreds of potential victims.

"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.

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.

In a statement, Swift officials said no civil or criminal charges have been filed against them or any current employees. They added that operations have been suspended at plants during the investigation but they plan to quickly resume operations.

Additional information is expected from ICE and the Department of Homeland Security during a news conference set for later today.

Swift is headquartered in Greeley and has processing or distribution plants in at least 11 states for beef, pork and lamb.

In Greeley, cars lined the street leading to the plant as family members stood outside. One person held a sign that said, "Presents! No tears at Christmas!"

Contributing: KUSA-TV in Denver; the Associated Press.