U.S. officials are probing the possibility the al-Qaida terrorist network sought to infiltrate a Texas company in order to contaminate ready-to-eat meals designated for the military.
A high-ranking al-Qaida operative provided information leading authorities to nearly a dozen illegal immigrants working for the McAllen, Texas-based Wornick Co., the largest supplier of the meals, according to McAllen’s The Monitor newspaper.
The firm that places the workers at Wornick has been charged with conspiring to make and use false employment eligibility verification forms.
U.S. Attorney Michael Shelby explained, “Immediately after the liberation of Afghanistan from the Taliban in 2002, U.S. forces on the ground received specific information that links McAllen, Texas, by name and the Wornick facility by name to information within al-Qaida’s possession.”
The Texas paper noted the Department of Defense has a $67 million contract with Wornick to produce the meals.
Armed with the al-Qaida operative’s information, the FBI was led to an employee-placement firm, Remedy Intelligent Staffing in McAllen, which referred a number of workers to Wornick.
“There had to be an investigation into the possibility that al-Qaida had the intention of infiltrating the Wornick Company for the purposes of contaminating — possibly — the MREs produced by the company,” Shelby stated, according to The Monitor.
Shelby said no contaminated meals have been found, but 10 temporary employees at Remedy, involved in all aspects of assembling the meals, were convicted in July on charges of stealing Social Security numbers.
The indictment of Remedy, unsealed Thursday, was a significant event to servicemen worldwide, Shelby said, noting Wornick officials cooperated with the investigation.
Remedy’s vice president, James Eckensberger, appeared in court Thursday to enter a plea of not guilty on behalf of the company.
“Remedy and all of its officers are responsible for following all federal laws and regulations concerning its own workforce, including those laws that prohibit the hiring of unauthorized workers or illegal aliens,” Shelby said.
“Today’s indictment alleges that Remedy hired a number of illegal aliens and did so basically knowingly and then they falsely certified that they had in fact checked the information provided by those unauthorized workers when in fact, they had never even attempted to verify the information for hundreds of people,” Shelby said.
The attorney said that after the managers were confronted by the FBI with the discrepancies, they tried to conceal the fact they had not verified the illegals’ information by creating false official forms and delivering them to the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Shelby said he did not want to discuss where the undocumented workers might have obtained their fake Social Security cards.