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Very Real

ICE Agent Posed As Worker, Gave Out Donuts Before Taking 114 Employees From Ohio Gardening Center, ACLU Says

100 armed agents — and helicopters flying overhead — surrounded the Sandusky, Ohio Corso's Garden Center as the undercover agent offered employees donuts.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

They came bearing donuts.

Undercover Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided an Ohio gardening company on June 5, arresting more than 100 employees after posing as fellow workers and holding an impromptu meeting.

Inside the Sandusky, Ohio location, an ICE agent pretended to be a representative of Corso’s Garden Center and offered the workers donuts, while 100 armed agents — and helicopters flying overhead — formed a perimeter outside, according to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Agents took 114 employees from two Corso’s locations in Sandusky and Castalia into custody, regardless of their citizenship status, and loaded them onto buses. The men were ultimately sent to detention centers in Youngstown, Ohio, while the women were sent to centers in Battle Creek, Michigan.

More than 200 children have been left without one or more parents because of the raid, the ACLU reports.

Those arrested will likely face criminal charges including identity theft and tax evasion, according to the Associated Press. While no criminal charges have been filed against the company, the employer is reportedly under investigation; “a large volume of business documents” were seized during the raids, an agency spokesman reportedly said.

The investigation into the company began in October of last year, after the U.S. Border Patrol arrested a woman who gave stolen identity documents to undocumented people, AP reports. Her arrest led investigators to Corso’s, where, after examining the company’s files for any irregularities, they found that some social security numbers employees has provided belonged to dead people.

The identity theft targeted citizens who were unaware that their information was being used, Steve Francis, head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations unit in Detroit, told AP.

“We verified that a lot of U.S. persons were obviously unaware of this. It’s caused them a lot of hardship,” Francis said. “It’s not one that we’re looking for strictly as a worksite immigration raid.”

The company stated that it is “fully cooperating with the government’s investigation” in a Facebook statement released on June 7.

“Corso’s looks forward to the resolution of this unfortunate situation and in the interim will continue to focus efforts on serving customers as the investigation proceeds,” its statement read.

[Photo: ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations unit conduct a raid in Riverside, California on August 12, 2017. By Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images]