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Monte Vista Immigration Raid Targets Farm Workers

The general manager and two other employees of a southern Colorado potato farm have been arrested on charges of running a scheme to provide fake identification documents to illegal immigrants who worked on the farm.

A federal magistrate judge unsealed a six-count indictment against them on Thursday.

Federal agents arrested those three and 19 suspected illegal immigrants in a raid at Tuesday at the Worley & McCullough Inc. farm in Monte Vista, about 40 miles north of the New Mexico state line.

All but two of the suspected illegal immigrants were being held at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Denver pending deportation, ICE Special Agent Jeffrey Copp said.

Two women were released so they could arrange for child care and ordered to appear before an immigration judge later, he said. Sixteen of those arrested are from Mexico and three are from Guatemala, he said.

"The message we want to send is that we're out there looking," Copp said. "With our limited resources, we can't look at everyone, but that doesn't mean we're not looking at you if you're hiring illegal aliens."

The farm's general manager, Michael Abeyta, 40; foreman Luis Trujillo, 42; and employee Javier Fuentes-Sotelo, 32, appeared before a magistrate in Durango on Wednesday to be advised of the felony counts against them. A detention hearing was scheduled for Friday.

Trujillo and Abeyta are U.S. citizens. Fuentes-Sotelo is a legal permanent resident from Mexico, but if he is convicted, he could lose that status, Copp said.

The indictment said the men sold an undercover agent false documents for about $180 last summer.

Each faces charges of conspiracy to possess, receive, obtain and transfer false and counterfeited immigration and identification documents; obtaining and possessing false and counterfeited alien registration and Social Security cards and aggravated identity theft. Fuentes-Sotelo faces additional counts of aggravated identity theft and transfer of more than four identification documents.

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