The former packing supervisor at an O'Neill tomato plant has been sentenced to federal probation and fined $1,000 for aiding and abetting the unlawful employment of workers in the country illegally.
Rick Karnes, 58, pleaded guilty. Chief U.S. District Judge John Gerrard sentenced him Friday.
Karnes had no criminal history and in April was terminated from O'Neill Ventures, the tomato greenhouse and packing plant in north-central Nebraska where he had been in charge of maintenance and repairs, according to his attorney, Brian Gaddy.
He said Karnes had no role or involvement in the company’s decision to work with staffing companies owned by Juan Sanchez-Delgado. The prior owner of the company, along with his staff, recruited and initially engaged Delgado.
But, the government said, Karnes knew many of the workers were in the country illegally after several law enforcement stops in the O’Neill area confirmed it, yet he continued to go to Delgado for additional workers.
On Aug. 8, 2018, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers came with arrest warrants to the O'Neill area and two communities in Minnesota. In all, Homeland Security investigations encountered 133 people in the country illegally.