BAY CITY (AP) – A couple who admit hiring illegal immigrants for years at their Michigan dairy farm have been sentenced to probation.

John and Anja Verhaar could have been sent to jail. The sentences ordered Tuesday in federal court in Bay City will allow them to return to their 5,000-cow dairy farm in the Thumb near Bad Axe.

Last summer, the Verhaars pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges.

They admit they employed 78 illegal immigrants from 2000 through 2007. Many were hired on multiple occasions using different names or Social Security numbers.

The government will be collecting more than $2.7 million in penalties from the couple and the farm. Many businesses that provide goods or services to Aquila Farms had urged the judge to keep the Verhaars out of jail.

After emigrating from the Netherlands in the 1990s, the Verhaars turned a small farm into a major 5,000-cow operation in Huron County, 110 miles north of Detroit.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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