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Worksite Enforcement

Central Illinois restaurant owner sentenced to 5 months for hiring illegal aliens

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The owner of a Benld restaurant was sentenced here Thursday to five months in federal prison following his guilty plea to knowingly employing illegal aliens. This sentence resulted from an investigation conducted by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Besim Tabaku, 34, is the owner of Toni's Family Restaurant located at 2630 Stauton Road in Benld, Ill. He was sentenced Oct. 23 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Byron G. Cudmore, Central District of Illinois, to five months in prison and ordered to pay a $27,000 fine for employing illegal workers at his restaurant.

Tabaku was ordered to report to the Bureau of Prisons in one month to begin serving his federal prison sentence. Tabaku was also sentenced to serve one year supervised release following his release from prison.

ICE agents initiated a worksite enforcement investigation into Toni's Family Restaurant earlier this year after receiving credible information that a number of illegal workers were employed there. On April 10, ICE agents arrested five illegal aliens from Mexico who were employed at the restaurant. The illegal workers all confirmed that they were required to work six days a week at the restaurant and that Tabaku paid them in cash.

ICE agents subsequently executed a federal search warrant at the restaurant on May 28 and arrested four additional illegal alien workers. Tabaku, who was charged in a criminal complaint in June, pleaded guilty Aug. 14 to knowingly hiring illegal aliens at his business.

The Gillespie (Ill,) Police Department assisted ICE with this investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory M. Gilmore prosecuted this case.

"Employers who take advantage of illegal labor to gain a competitive advantage for their own profit will be prosecuted," said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Chicago. "Regardless of whether a company has 50 employees or 50,000 employees, ICE will enforce the law against employers who tolerate or perpetuate a shadow economy."

In 2008, ICE made more than 1,100 criminal arrests tied to worksite enforcement investigations. Of those charged criminally in these types of cases, 135 were business owners, managers, supervisors, or human resource employees. In addition to the criminal arrests, ICE also took 5,100 illegal aliens into custody on administrative immigration violations during worksite investigations.

To help employers build a legal workforce, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has an initiative called the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers, or IMAGE. IMAGE is designed to build cooperative relationships between the government and businesses, strengthen hiring practices, and reduce the unlawful employment of illegal aliens. The initiative also seeks to gain greater industry compliance and corporate due diligence through enhanced training and education of employers. ICE strongly encourages employers to review IMAGE program materials available at www.ICE.gov.