Feds: Wash. farm rehired illegal immigrants

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SEATTLE (AP) -- Federal prosecutors say a Washington state herb farm forced to fire more than 200 illegal immigrants because of a government audit, rehired dozens of those workers -- paid them cash and asked them to work at night -- because production began to plummet.

Duvall, Wash.-based HerbCo International, Inc., now faces four federal criminal charges. Prosecutors say the company knowingly hired illegal immigrants.

HerbCo's attorney, Geoffrey George Revelle, declined to comment on the pending case.

Court documents say that after an anonymous tip, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents audited the farm in 2011 and found 214 workers didn't have valid documentation. HerbCo officials then fired those workers and hired a labor firm to provide workers, but production was still disrupted.

Worried that contracts would be in peril, company officials hired 86 illegal immigrants back, paid cash and had them work graveyard shifts to put production back on track.