James Brantley, the Grainger County man who owns Southeastern Provision, a slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant that was raided by federal tax and immigration officials last year, has a chance to better his legal position by harming that of another, according to court documents.

Brantley, 61, has already pleaded guilty to tax fraud, wire fraud and knowingly hiring undocumented workers, and was scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 4, but all that changed Tuesday afternoon.

At the request of Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy C. Harker, U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer delayed Brantley’s sentencing until May 8.

“The United States submits as a basis for the continuance is that there are currently activities underway in a related case which could affect the sentencing of (Brantley),” Harker wrote. “It is in the best interests of (Brantley) and in the best interest of justice that the date of the sentencing hearing be continued, so that other matters may be resolved prior to the sentencing of the defendant.”

This type of phrasing is common in cooperation-related motions to continue. What’s atypical is a federal prosecutor identifying the proposed sentencing delay as being linked to a “related case.”

Brantley has agreed to pay $1.3 million in restitution to the IRS and $127,405 to his former workers’ compensation insurance carrier for grossly understating the number of employees who were eligible for claims. The IRS had Brantley dead-to-rights before they arrived with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in April 2018.

Law enforcement officials sent a Latino mole inside the slaughterhouse long enough to learn about the company’s hiring illegal practices, according to court documents.

“(The informant) stated that he knew that several of these employees used to work at another meat-processing plant in Morristown, but had been fired because their identification paperwork was fraudulent,” Nicholas R. Worsham, an IRS criminal investigator, wrote in an affidavit.

Another flaming red flag was the fact that Brantley told officials at Citizens Bank he needed large amounts of cash weekly – typically about $100,000 – for the “purpose of paying cash wages to Hispanics,” according to Worsham.

The affidavit profoundly implicated Brantley’s wife, his daughter and another long-time employee. After reviewing the government’s evidence, Brantley pleaded guilty “by information” without having been indicted. Brantley’s wife, daughter and his long-time employee escaped federal prosecution.