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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Tyson Foods Inc. released a statement Tuesday claiming it was indicted in an immigrant smuggling case after refusing to pay the government $100 million to settle the case, The Associated Press reports.
The nation's largest poultry producer said its refusal to pay prompted a Dec. 11 indictment of the company and six former managers on charges of conspiring to smuggle illegal immigrants to work at plants in nine states.
Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra declined comment to the AP Wednesday.
Tyson also accused federal prosecutors of "improper racial stereotyping," alleging they have proposed to have Tyson workers testify that thousands of temporary workers were illegal because they "looked and sounded Mexican."
"Tyson refuses to be part of the prosecution's incorrect and racially biased belief that an employee can determine the immigration status of hundreds of co-workers by their individual accents and appearance," the Arkansas-based company said.
The statement was issued after federal officials in Washington asked a judge to penalize the company for violating its 1998 probation in an influence-peddling case involving former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy. That probation expires Saturday.
Tyson was fined and placed on probation after pleading guilty to charges that the company provided illegal gifts to Espy.
Tyson said it would dispute allegations that it violated probation during a scheduled Feb 12 hearing before U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina, who presided over the Espy case.