HOUSTON – Three Chinese nationals from the Katy, Texas, area were taken into custody Thursday, following the return of an indictment alleging a conspiracy to harbor and induce illegal aliens to reside in the U.S, and unlawful employment. These arrests were announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The investigation is being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The indictment indicates Song Yu, 32, Hue Chen, 36, and Cheng Jie Chen, 40, hired illegal aliens from Guatemala to work at the Bamboo Village, aka New Bamboo Village restaurant. In addition, some of these aliens were allegedly directed to obtain fraudulent work authorization documents. They never presented identification documents and never completed I-9 forms, as required by law, according to the indictment. The indictment further alleges illegal aliens and other workers were provided housing, and were transported to and from the restaurant.
Bamboo Village restaurant is a Chinese restaurant located on the 5100 block of Avenue H, in Rosenberg, Texas. Cheng Jie Chen was its original director and president. On April 5, 2010, the restaurant changed the corporation name to New Bamboo Village Inc., at which time Yu, Cheng Jie Chen's nephew, was named as the director and president.
Federal law requires employers to hire only U.S. citizens and aliens who are authorized to work in the United States. Further, employers must verify employment eligibility using the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9). The employer is required to examine, at the time of hire, the documentation provided by the individual that establishes his identity and employment eligibility to ensure the documents presented appear to be genuine and relate to the individual. The employer must retain the I-9 forms for three years after the date of the hire or one year after the date the individual's employment is terminated, whichever is later.
On March 24, 2009, HSI special agents encountered and arrested illegal aliens at a residence on the 4900 block of Timber Lane in Rosenberg. These individuals, who did not have the proper I-9 documentation, allegedly worked at Bamboo Village and resided at the Timber Lane location. According to the indictment, they were transported daily to work at the restaurant.
HSI issued a warning notice to the restaurant on or about July 1, 2010, advising then owner Chen Jie Chen of the penalties associated with knowingly hiring and employing illegal aliens, and the lack of the I-9 forms.
On Aug. 22, 2012, HSI personnel again encountered more illegal aliens who were arrested at the same Timber Lane residence. At the time, all were allegedly being housed by the defendants at this location while working at New Bamboo Village.
The three are expected to make their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson Oct. 26. If convicted of the conspiracy charge, they face up to 10 years in prison, as well as a maximum $250,000 fine. Unlawfully employing illegal aliens carries an additional six-month prison term, and a $3,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Elmilady, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.