On January 4, 2018, dairy farmer Denis Burke was sentenced to two years in prison by U.S. District Judge Thomas L. Ludington. Burke will have another two years of supervised release following time served. A fine of $1.38 million was also assessed against Burke and his farms.
Burke pleaded guilty in September 2017 of knowingly harboring illegal aliens for private gain and/or commercial advantage. Burke’s wife, Madeline Burke, pleaded guilty earlier to one count of hiring without verification of employment eligibility. Under a plea agreement Burke was not prosecuted for four more charges of the same crime.
Denis Burke’s plea agreement states that from February 2008 to May 2013, the couple hired and harbored more than 100 illegal immigrants on two farms located in Huron County and Tuscola County. “Denis Burke gave the illegal aliens free housing on or next to his farms so the illegal aliens would be readily available for work and less accessible to immigration authorities,” the plea deal document says. “Because the illegal aliens lacked valid documentation, they could not get driver’s licenses, open accounts at financial institutions so they could cash paychecks themselves, or register vehicles with the Michigan Secretary of State.”