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01/07/2011

Indiana restaurant owner sentenced to 3 years for concealing illegal aliens

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - The former owner of a local Chinese restaurant was sentenced in federal court Friday to three years in prison for concealing illegal aliens and mail fraud. The sentence resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Zhi Jian Jiang, 40, of Sacramento, Calif., was sentenced Jan. 7 in the Northern District of Indiana to 36 months imprisonment, two years of supervised release, and a $10,000 fine. Jiang pleaded guilty to one count of concealing illegal aliens from detection and one count of mail fraud.

Jiang owned the Fortune House restaurant located in Michigan City, Ind.. He also owned a home where the illegal aliens were housed. As the employer, Jiang acknowledged that he was required to verify on an I-9 form (Employment Eligibility Verification Form) that an employee provided documentation to establish identity and authorization to work. Jiang admitted that he hired four illegal workers from Mexico in reckless disregard of their immigration status to work at the restaurant.

Jiang further acknowledged that he did not have the workers complete I-9 forms, nor did he report their wages to the Indiana Work Force Development Agency. Jiang also admitted that he caused a quarterly report to be prepared and mailed to Indiana Work Force Development in Indianapolis for the third calendar quarter of 2006 that did not list the wages of the four illegal workers. This report did not list the names and wages so as not to disclose to a government authority that the aliens worked at the restaurant.

"Today's sentence should serve as a warning to employers who tolerate or perpetuate a shadow economy by hiring an illegal workforce," said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Chicago. "We will use all our investigative tools to pursue employers who take advantage of illegal labor to make an unlawful profit."

Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Maciejczyk and Barbara Brook, Northern District of Indiana, prosecuted this case.