Murder Uncovers Illegal Aliens in the Mushroom Business

By David North on July 21, 2015

Here's a helpful memorandum to those thinking about hiring illegal aliens:

  • If you are going to hire illegal aliens, see to it that they do not murder each other.
  • If the feds catch you with a bunch of illegals on your payroll, don't re-hire them under other names.

A big mushroom farm did not follow those simple rules and now has to forfeit more than $1 million in ill-gotten gains.

Typically, employers of illegal aliens, if penalized at all, are simply fined by the government, and in many cases they can, and do, appeal the level of the fines to an entity called the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) in the Department of Justice. That organization often reduces, but rarely eliminates the fines.

But the mushroom farmer in Tangipahoa Parish, La., got a lot more than a slap on the wrist. M.D. Basciani and Sons, Inc., pled guilty to harboring illegal aliens in a federal district court and then agreed to a settlement. Under its terms, the firm, which also has factory-style mushroom operations elsewhere in the United States, was placed on probation for three years, and had to forfeit "over $1 million in illegal proceeds that it obtained as a result of employing the illegal workers", according to a Justice Department press release.

I would have preferred that the owners of the firm went to jail, but getting a corporation to plead guilty to a criminal charge, putting the corporation on probation, and squeezing a million dollars out of it, are three steps in the right direction, and that should happen much more often. I did not know, incidentally, that you could put a corporation on probation.

The operation in question is the Red Hill Mushroom Farm in Independence, La., which is in the part of the state east of the Mississippi River. While most farming is an outdoor activity, that is not true in the mushroom business; the mushrooms grow indoors in the dark.

The Bascianis, who are longtime players in the mushroom business nationally, got into trouble as a result of three factors: bad initial hiring practices, bad luck, and then either arrogance or stupidity.

The farm had apparently been employing illegal aliens for a long time; had that not been the case, the family would be a million richer.

The bad luck came when one of their illegal alien workers shot and killed another illegal, both of whom had worked at the Red Hill farm, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate. While investigating that crime — which has not yet gone to court — a deputy on the sheriff's staff found that the suspect appeared to be an illegal alien, and apparently shared that information with ICE.

The feds then visited the farm and as a result of their inquiries charged that the employer had hired 17 illegal aliens. Michael Basciani, one of the owners, said that those workers would have to be fired.

A little later — the Advocate story continues — ICE found another unnamed illegal alien, converted him or her (there is a deliberate lack of specificity here) into an informant, and sent that person to the farm seeking a job, and wearing a wire. The informant told the farm manager that he or she did not have papers and the manager told the person to obtain some forged documents showing that he or she was legal, come back, and we will hire you.

After hearing this, ICE paid another visit to the farm and found that the same group of illegal aliens were working there as before, but with a new set of names and a different set of phony supporting documents.

The Bascianis, a Google search indicates, are no strangers to the courts.

They are involved in a long-running anti-trust case in Pennsylvania for joining in a larger conspiracy to lower mushroom production and to raise prices. (One of the cartel's maneuvers, and this is not specifically charged to the Bascianis, was to buy failing mushroom farms and then resell them at a loss, with a restriction that the farm could not be used to grow mushrooms; a creative, if illegal activity.)

Further, one of the brothers who owns and runs the mushroom operations, Richard, was sent to
jail for five to 10 years about nine years ago after "pleading guilty to drug charges, corrupting minors, and possessing firearms without a license", according to the Daily Local News of West Chester, Pa. Another local paper reports that he has since returned to the family business.

The anti-trust and drug matters were not mentioned in the Advocate's reporting or in the settlement agreement.