NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A federal utility has received $3.5 million in a settlement with a tree-trimming firm that pleaded guilty in a scheme to employ thousands of people in the country illegally.

A Tennessee Valley Authority’s Office of Inspector General report says Asplundh (AH’-splund) Tree Expert Co. has already paid the utility.

Prosecutors say Asplundh “remained willfully blind” while managers hired workers they knew to be in the country illegally.

The suburban Philadelphia-based company pleaded guilty in September. A federal judge sentenced Asplundh to pay $95 million. Prosecutors say it’s the largest monetary penalty ever levied in an immigration case.

Of the $95 million, $15 million satisfied civil claims about the company’s failure to comply with immigration law. That included $3.6 million to TVA, with 3 percent going to the U.S. Justice Department.

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