Prosecutors to seek indictments in raid

HOUSTON U.S. Magistrate Frances Stacy ruled on Wednesday, after five hours of testimony, there was evidence to support federal conspiracy charges that Mabarik Kahlon, 45, owner of Action Rags USA, and three managers knew undocumented workers were hired and they had presented false work documents.

More than 160 suspected illegal immigrants working in Action Rags USA, a hot, cluttered factory in north Houston, were detained on June 25, one of the largest immigration raids in there in nearly two years. At least 74 have been released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials for humanitarian reasons, the Houston Chronicle reported in its Wednesday editions.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Davis said the fact that 85 percent of company workers at the plant were undocumented was sufficient to show a conspiracy existed.

In her ruling, Stacy cited evidence from government informants against Kahlon and other employees.

Defense attorney Paul Nugent represents 34-year-old Valerie Rodriguez, described by government officials as the company's resource manager. He said government informants obtained scant evidence against his client, who he says was only a secretary.

The role of the four informants in the case - including three who were paid a total of $13,200 along with immigration benefits - will be a key part of the case, Nugent said. The three paid informants were illegal immigrants planted at Action Rags USA by ICE agents.

"The paid informants were given cash money and documents allowing them to legally stay and work in the country," Nugent said. "That's a pretty strong incentive for anybody to say what the agents want them to say."

During the hearing, ICE case agent Calvin Bradford testified that only one of the four informants was told beforehand they would receive money for their undercover work. The agency has not decided how much it will pay the initial informant who provided the original details of activities at the company.

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