Jailed slaughterhouse owner reaches civil suit settlement

Imprisoned Grainger County slaughterhouse owner James Brantley and his business, Southeastern Provision LLC, have agreed to pay $610,000 in overtime-related back wages and damages to settle a civil lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor, according to a Monday filing in federal court in Knoxville.

Brantley will pay $305,000 in back wages to 149 former or current employees – mostly Latinos – and an identical amount in damages within 36 months. The first $70,000 installment is due by July 16. Thereafter, Brantley will pay $15,000 a month until the debt is retired, according to the consent order and permanent injunction.

The settlement provides that in the future, Southeastern Provision must pay time-and-a-half wages for every hour Southeastern Provision employees work over 40 hours, and that the company keep accurate records documenting compliance with overtime-pay laws.

If the people identified in the settlement no longer work for Southeastern Provision, the checks, less applicable deductions, will be mailed to their last known addresses. Any funds not distributed in three years – due to an inability to locate the proper persons – will be deposited as miscellaneous receipts into the U.S. Treasury, according to the agreement.

On July 31, 2019, Brantley was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to tax fraud, wire fraud and knowingly hiring undocumented workers. Brantley, 62, remains incarcerated at a minimum-security prison on Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. His projected release date is Jan. 7, 2021, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

As part of his agreement to put the criminal charges behind him, Brantley agreed to pay $1.42 million in restitution – $1.3 million to the IRS and the remainder to his former liability insurance carrier – for having more covered employees than he reported.

The beginning month for the court-ordered, overtime-related paybacks is May 2017. The agreed order states the endpoint is in April 2018, the same month IRS criminal investigators, accompanied by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, raided the Bean Station slaughterhouse.

Latinos account for 134 of the 149 former or current Southeastern Provision employees who will receive money. The highest amount, $12,075, will go to a man named Hector Ortiz. Two of the top recipients are long-time employees Jason Kinser, the kill-room manager, and his brother, Carl Kinser, the plant manager. They will get $6,930 and $6,004, respectively, according to the consent order.

The Kinsers pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor offense of employing unauthorized aliens and were given three-year probationary sentences.

Ten of the 100-odd Latinos taken into custody in April 2018 had been previously deported, and were indicted and convicted in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.