Sheriff's deputies raid Gold Canyon Candle Company

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MCSO raids Valley candle company

CHANDLER -- Maricopa County sheriff's deputies raided Gold Canyon Candle Company at Arizona Avenue and Riggs Road Wednesday morning.

According to a press release, as many as 23 people are involved in identity theft, a White House staff member connection and an internal plan by plant employees to avoid capture by immigration or law enforcement authorities.

An employee's mother said deputies were inside, asking for immigration papers.

Authorities say 65 people, most of who were illegals, were arrested in the raid. Twenty-three of those were booked on identity theft charges and 37 taken into custody based on their illegal status.

An additional five U.S. citizens were arrested on outstanding warrants.

Sheriff's detectives say they have verified three victims of identity theft so far, including one person who is a Washington, D.C., White House staff member working in the Bush administration.

Computers, employment records and other documents were taken from the property as detectives try to determine whether plant managers knowingly hired illegal workers.

Gold Canyon Company spokeswoman Rebecca Clyde said deputies showed up with a search warrant, looking for specific individuals on charges of identity theft.

Clyde said Gold Canyon complied with the search, provided e-file documents and worked with MCSO.

"Gold Canyon has always participated in e-verify, verifies all documentation with the government as required, and makes sure that there's appropriate W-2s and I-9s for every employee," Clyde said.

She said MCSO showed the human relations director the search warrant, but did not allow the attorney to review it.

Clyde said the company didn't receive prior notification of the raid.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas said, "Given there appears to be evidence that plant workers devised plans to avoid capture or detection by law enforcement authorities for their illegal employment practices, this may be the county's strongest potential employer sanctions case to date."