Paul Love, one owner of Love Irrigation in Ridgeland, will do time in prison for his part in harboring and employing illegal immigrants for the landscaping business. Today in U.S. District Court, Love was sentenced to 21 months in prison with three years of supervised release. Love was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and a $100 special assessment fee for the single felony count. Four other felony counts were dismissed. On August 9, wife Barbara Love was sentenced to 30 days house arrest along with three years probation. The couple was charged with improper use of social security numbers and hid the fact they hired illegal workers from immigration agents. The Loves pled guilty under a plea bargain.
Some background: According to the indictment, in May 2008, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement visited Love Irrigation and told Paul and Barbara Love how to properly complete I-9 forms, verify Social Security numbers and participate in the E-Verify program. Upon reviewing 21 I-9 forms, ICE noticed seven unauthorized employees and ordered the Loves to terminate them.But Love Irrigation continued to employ them and hide them from detection, according to the indictment. The Loves classified the employees as “contract labor” and ceased reporting them to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security as required by law, the indictment says. Furthermore, the Loves stopped paying the illegal employees with company checks and began paying them in cash at off-site locations, according to the indictment. Crew supervisors were instructed to pick up and drop off illegal employees at covert locations, the indictment says. The indictment further alleges that, in 2010, Love Irrigation began submitting names of its illegal immigrant employees to MDES, using the same names and Social Security numbers for some and used different numbers for others previously identified by ICE in 2008. In 2010, Paul and Barbara Love also began falsifying I-9 forms, listing false employment start dates for various illegal immigrants while listing different Social Security numbers from those used by the same employees on past forms reported to MDES, the indictment says. ICE served a search warrant on Love Irrigation’s offices in July 2010. As a result of committing the alleged offenses, Paul and Barbara Love and Love Irrigation were ordered to forfeit $220,109.67 from accounts with First Commercial Bank. (Story by Terricha Bradley-Phillips, November 2011, The Clarion-Ledger)