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Stuart McAtee
Stuart McAtee
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What do SSD Payments, Turkeys, Texas Farmers, and Iowa Have In Common?

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Could it be that a Texas farm that employed mentally disabled workers exploited them and took their SSD payments? Allegations are bothersome about the Dallas Morning News story about a farm in Texas which is facing charges of wrongdoing involving mentally disabled workers. read story here.

The young men, fresh from Texas state institutions for the mentally disabled, began arriving at Thurman Johnson’s ranch in the rolling hills west of town in the late 1960s. Johnson taught them how to raise turkeys and cows and perform other farm chores, then put them to work. Later, he and his partner, Kenneth Henry, hired out the men as laborers at turkey processing plants in Iowa and other states.

Over four decades, Johnson and Henry cared for hundreds of mentally disabled Texans and profited from their labor – with the knowledge of state and federal authorities. The arrangement ended in February, when Iowa authorities shut down a shabby bunkhouse where the last 21 men lived while working long hours in a nearby turkey processing plant.

FBI agents and other federal and state investigators in Texas and Iowa have interviewed witnesses and are poring over thousands of pages of records to determine whether the business broke laws, including underpaying workers or violating their civil rights. Iowa authorities recently notified Henry that the business could face $900,000 in fines for improper payroll deductions and other alleged violations.

The U.S. Social Security Administration is examining the company’s handling of federal assistance payments to its disabled workers. At the time authorities shut down the Iowa bunkhouse, each of the Henry’s workers was collecting on average about $640 a month in Social Security and federal disability payments. The money went directly into each individual’s account at the Mills County State Bank in Goldthwaite, Texas – accounts that Hill Country Farms was allowed to access according to the story.