Wal-Mart: Feds send letter saying company is the target of investigation on immigrants

Tuesday, November 4th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ Wal-Mart said Tuesday that it has received a ``target letter'' from the U.S. Attorney's Office alleging the world's largest retailer violated federal immigration laws.

``The company is the target'' of the investigation, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spokeswoman Mona Williams said. ``No company employee has received an individual target letter at this time.''

On Oct. 23, federal agents arrested about 250 alleged illegal workers in a 21-state sweep of Wal-Mart stores.

Target letters give people or companies formal notification that they are the focus of an investigation. Williams said the company was not surprised, given the comments federal officials made after Oct. 23 raids.

``We expect the grand jury will begin its hearing in mid-December and this notification gives us time to provide the U.S. Attorney's Office information we feel supports our position,'' she said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne Samuelson in Williamsport, Pa., where the case is being handled, would not discuss specifics or respond to comments by Wal-Mart.

The raids keyed on floor cleaners employed by companies Wal-Mart hired for the work. Ten of the people arrested were Wal-Mart employees hired as the company continued a move to phase out the use of cleaning contractors.

The workers came from 18 nations.

Wal-Mart says it pledged its cooperation once it learned of the raids. That day, the company instructed store managers to preserve relevant records. It has also said it would review all of its domestic employees _ more than 1 million _ to ensure they all have legal status.

Wal-Mart had sales last year of $244.5 billion.

After the sweep, the workers were taken to local immigration offices. Some were released, but those with criminal records were detained, authorities said.

The arrests were made in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

Wal-Mart has 1,494 discount stores, 1,386 Supercenters, 532 Sam's Clubs and 56 Neighborhood Markets in the United States. The company has about 1.1 million employees in the United States and 300,000 in other countries. Wal-Mart had sales last year of $244.5 billion.