Dairy farm owner pleads guilty to using illegal labor
CASS CITY — The owner of two Michigan dairy farms pleaded guilty to harboring workers who were in the U.S. illegally and agreed to pay nearly $1.4 million to the government.
Denis Burke, an Irish immigrant, admitted he employed more than 100 people who were in the U.S. without legal permission. Guilty pleas also were entered on behalf of his farms, Dunganstown Dairy and Parisville Dairy, both located in Michigan’s Thumb region.
Burke “gave the illegal aliens free housing on or next to his farms so the illegal aliens would be readily available for work and less accessible to immigration authorities,” according to a plea agreement signed by Burke and federal prosecutors.
He and the farms have agreed to pay $1.38 million to the U.S. government. Burke also could be sent to prison when he’s sentenced on Jan. 4.
His wife, Madeline Burke, has agreed to pay $187,500.
In 2016, a woman admitted that she conspired for years with eastern Michigan dairy farms to provide workers, including at the Burke farms. Yolanda Stewart would help immigrants buy groceries, cash checks and send money to Mexico. She was sentenced to 27 months in prison.
“By keeping the illegal workers on his farms and his farms in operation, Burke benefited financially and gained a commercial advantage over other dairy farmers who employed only legal workers,” the plea agreement said.