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BOSTON — The owner of Massachusetts leather company ran a "sweatshop" operation employing upward of 350 illegal immigrants — paid $7 an hour — in order to fulfill $91 million in government contracts, federal officials charged Tuesday.
The owner of the New Bedford-based company, Michael Bianco Inc., and three plant managers were charged with recruiting illegal aliens and providing them with false documents that allowed them to live and work in the U.S.
More than 300 federal agents swarmed the plant Tuesday, detaining between 300 and 350 illegal workers, many of whom tried to flee into the surrounding streets as a Coast Guard helicopter monitored the raid overhead. Bitter cold temperatures forced many to return to the plant, said Bruce Foucart, Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent in charge.
Many of the detained illegal workers were women from Central America.