Bean Station — After a raid that ended in 97 employees being detained by ICE, a Grainger County meatpacking plant is making national headlines.
ICE said Homeland Security investigators encountered 97 people during the Thursday raid who were subject to removal from the U.S. Of those, 54 were put into detention, 32 were released from custody, 10 were arrested on federal criminal charges, and one was arrested on state charges.
Records obtained by 10News show just weeks before the raid, Southeastern Provision faced a crisis of another kind: a sewage system failure and spill that triggered a boil alert for residents living nearby.
More research shows the slaughterhouse's problems go back years. A complaint from the US Department of Agriculture dated December 20, 2011 details violations of weight practices and equipment use.
The complaint names co-owners James H. Brantley and his son James M. Brantley and says Southeastern Provision 'willfully violated' the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921.
A civil penalty of $5,000 was also issued by the USDA for improperly weighing carcasses and not paying what they are worth because of that.
The complaint states that in May of 2007, Southeastern was notified by the Packers and Stockyards Program that its weighing practices were in violation of the act and warned that continued violations would result in disciplinary action.
It goes on to point out separate occasions from August 2008 through September 2011 that the company failed to use proper equipment in the weighing and buying process.
According to an obituary, former co-owner James Brantley Sr. passed away on April 6, 2012. He ran Southeastern Provision for 38 years.
An affidavit filed before Thursday's raid name his son, James M. Brantley, and three others who investigators said made weekly cash bank withdrawals starting in 2008 that exceeded $25 million. That cash was reportedly stored in a vault within the plant and used to pay employees.
Those named in the investigation include James Brantley, the President and General Manager of Southeastern Provision, his wife Pamela, their daughter Kelsey and another employee named Priscilla Keck.
In the affidavit, James Brantley is accused of willfully attempting to evade or defeat payment of federal employment taxes, unlawfully employing Illegal aliens, willfully failing to to collect and pay federal employment taxes, and filing false tax returns.
The document also states a controversial informant who went inside the plant for the government last year found the owners did not ask for identification of workers and paid $10 an hour in cash at the end of each week.