A woman who illegally helped immigrants work at dairy farms in Michigan’s Thumb region was sentenced Wednesday to two years and three months in federal prison.
In her plea deal, Yolanda Stewart admitted that she conspired with farms for years. She said she enabled at least 10 farms, especially in Huron and Tuscola counties, to benefit from the labor of more than 100 people who were in the U.S. illegally.
Defense attorney Paul Beggs said the 60-year-old Marlette woman regrets her actions. But he called it a stiff sentence for “something so many people do.”
“She’s Hispanic. She’s a U.S. citizen. She speaks the language. She identified with the culture,” Beggs told The Associated Press after the court hearing in Bay City, 100 miles northeast of Lansing.
Stewart helped workers buy groceries, cash at least $1.8 million in checks and send money to Mexico. She also assisted them in getting bogus identity documents. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy in July.
In her signed plea agreement, Stewart also admitted that she alerted farm operators when she believed federal agents were nearby so that they could conceal workers from getting caught.
Charges against her husband were dropped.
Khaalid Walls, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined to comment when asked if farms assisted by Stewart were being investigated.
In 2011, the owners of a 5,000-cow farm near Bad Axe were placed on probation and ordered to pay $2.7 million for employing dozens of people who were in the U.S. illegally.
By: Associated Press