LITTLE ROCK (AP) -- Federal immigration agents arrested 13 suspected illegal immigrants during a raid at North Little Rock boat manufacturer, authorities said Thursday.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted the raid Wednesday at Waco Manufacturing, home of AlohaPontoons.com, said ICE spokeswoman Temple Black. Black said agents arrested 13 men from Guatemala and Mexico.
U.S. Attorney Jane Duke said the investigation into the pontoon boat manufacturer began when ICE agents received a tip that the business employed illegal immigrants. Duke said Aloha Pontoons cooperated with the agent's investigation.
The suspected illegal immigrants used other people's Social Security numbers or federally issued legal alien numbers to apply for work at the manufacturer, Duke said. Most of the men face charges of entering the United States illegally and misuse of a Social Security number.
Each charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised parole, but it is likely the men won't serve jail time, Duke said. If the men plead guilty, they'll likely be sentenced to time served and deported, she said. However, the men will have criminal records -- meaning they could face harsher penalties if they return illegally to the U.S.
Duke said the priority for her office remained pursuing identity thieves, with illegal immigration raids being part of that effort.
"We will continue to focus on any situation involving misuse of actual identification information for real, live people," Duke said. "To the extent it involves immigration violations, we'll deal with it."
The 13 men were scheduled to appear Friday morning before U.S. District Judge James M. Moody.
Thomas Cox, president of Aloha Pontoons, said the inquiries about his employees came as a surprise.
"We had every reason to believe they were legal and they were wonderful employees," Cox said. He declined to comment further on the investigation.
Duke said she did not anticipate filing any charges against the company.
Wednesday's raid is the third major operation carried out by ICE agents this year in Arkansas. In April, federal agents arrested 21 suspected illegal immigrants at Pilgrim's Pride plant in Batesville as part of a nationwide sweep against workers using illegally obtained Social Security numbers and driver's licenses. Two weeks later, agents arrested 24 suspected illegal immigrants working on a construction project near the Little Rock National Airport.