A tomato greenhouse and packing plant in O'Neill, Nebraska, was sentenced to a fine Wednesday for its role in a conspiracy to harbor undocumented workers.

O’Neill Ventures Inc. was sentenced to a fine of $400,000, due immediately. The company agreed to the fine in February as part of a plea deal.

The fine exceeded the recommended sentencing guidelines range of $70,000 to $140,000. Chief U.S. District Court Judge John Gerrard said that the higher fine amount was warranted because of the conditions workers experienced at the tomato plant.

The August 2018 raid of the plant and other businesses in the O'Neill area was one of the largest ever conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. More than 130 workers were detained and 17 people arrested in connection with an illegal employment service run by Juan Pablo Sanchez-Delgado, who took a cut of the undocumented workers' paychecks and failed to pay taxes.

ICE agents an officers raided the plant and other businesses on Aug. 8, 2018. They found that undocumented workers composed about 70% of the the plant's work force that day.

O'Neill Ventures also must allow Homeland Security Investigations to conduct reviews and inspections of the plant's labor practices and hiring processes during a probationary term as part of the the plea agreement.

Sanchez-Delgado was sentenced in November to 10 years in prison — the maximum punishment for the charge of conspiring to harbor undocumented workers to which he pleaded guilty in March. He was also sentenced to a $150,000 fine, and forfeiture of additional cash as well as three Las Vegas residences worth $1.5 million. The residences were seized by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

jwade@owh.com, 402-444-1067

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