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08/28/2013

2 owners of NM Chinese restaurants charged with harboring illegal aliens

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two brothers, who own two local Chinese restaurants, remain in federal custody following their arrest Monday on charges of conspiracy and harboring illegal aliens.

Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested the brothers Aug. 26.

Wen Ping Chen, 28, and Wen Qiu Chen, 30, are both naturalized U.S. citizens born in China.

HSI special agents initiated an investigation into allegations the two brothers were harboring illegal aliens who worked at their two restaurants: the Double Dragon Restaurant in Rio Rancho, N.M., which is owned and operated by Ping Chen; and the Double Dragon II, in Santa Fe, N.M., which is owned and operated by Qiu Chen.

According to court filings, in October 2012, HSI special agents executed search warrants at the Double Dragon and a Rio Rancho residence owned by Ping Chen and Qiu Chen. The special agents allegedly found three illegal aliens at the restaurant and another illegal alien in the home, which served as the residence for all four aliens. All four individuals allegedly worked for Ping Chen at the Double Dragon without employment authorization documents.

In May 2013, HSI special agents executed search warrants at the Double Dragon II and a Santa Fe residence owned by Qiu Chen, and allegedly found five illegal aliens at the Double Dragon II. The special agents allegedly learned that all of the Double Dragon II employees lived in the Santa Fe residence owned by Qiu Chen. The five illegal aliens also allegedly worked for Qiu Chen at the Double Dragon II without employment authorization documents.

If convicted on the conspiracy charge, Ping Chen and Qiu Chen each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison. If convicted on the harboring charge, each man faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Charges in criminal complaints are merely accusations; defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Norman Cairns, District of New Mexico.