One of the nation’s largest pork producers, Minnesota’s Christensen Farms, was among the multi-state operation led by special agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, who served a series of criminal arrest warrants on Wednesday in Minnesota, Nebraska, and Nevada on allegations that they are exploiting illegal laborers.

Christensen Farms markets some 3 million hogs per year, with 143,000 sows on 44 farms throughout the Midwest. The company employs nearly 1,000 people, and is the largest shareholder of St. Joseph, Missouri-based pork processor Triumph Foods LLC.

Authorities also served search warrants for worksite hiring violations at agricultural firms in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota; Appleton, Minnesota; and Las Vegas, Nevada.

The multi-state operation issued criminal arrest warrants for 17 people on allegations of a conspiracy to “exploit illegal alien laborers for profit, fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in Nebraska and Minnesota,” ICE officials said in a news release. The agency detained 14 of those people, but three were not yet in custody as of Wednesday.

“The job magnet in the United States is primarily what draws illegal aliens across our borders,” said Special Agent in Charge Tracy J. Cormier, Homeland Security Investigations-St. Paul, Minnesota. “This HSI-led criminal investigation has shown that these targeted businesses were knowingly hiring illegal workers to unlawfully line their own pockets by cheating the workers, cheating the taxpayers, and cheating their business competitors.”

During the execution of the search warrants August 8, 133 illegal workers were arrested for immigration violations, some will be issued notices to appear before a federal immigration judge and released from custody.  The rest will remain in ICE custody pending immigration court proceedings.

The latest ICE action resulted from a 15-month investigation, and comes as the Trump administration steps up enforcement of illegal immigration.

The effort has affected the meat industry, with 146 workers arrested in June at Fresh Mark’s plant in Salem, Ohio, and 97 arrested at Southeastern Provision in Grainger County, Tennesse, in April.