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Worksite Enforcement

Louisville, Ky., restaurant owner indicted for harboring illegal aliens

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The owner of a local Chinese restaurant was indicted here Monday on federal charges that he harbored illegal aliens to work at his restaurant and had them work 12-hour days, six days per week. This indictment resulted from a criminal worksite enforcement investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

A federal grand jury in Louisville returned an indictment against Ji Quan Yang, 40, of 523 Bloomfield Rd., Bardstown, Ky., on charges of harboring illegal aliens.

The indictment alleges that Yang recklessly disregarded that the illegal aliens had entered and remained in the U.S. in violation of immigration law. The indictment charges that Yang harbored them at the China Star restaurant, located at 317 Kentucky Home Square, and at an apartment building located at 121-123 Caldwell Ave., both in Bardstown. The indictment names five of the illegal aliens employed by Yang at the restaurant, and alleges that he harbored them for commercial advantage and private financial gain. Those named include: Zu Wei Chen, Dan Dan Chen, Song Chen, Jan Jin Weng and Andres de Jesus Diaz-Gomez.

All five illegal aliens testified for the United States at a preliminary hearing on Jan. 24, and were remanded to ICE custody. Each alien testified at the hearing about the circumstances surrounding his or her unlawful entry into this country and subsequent employment by Ji Quan Yang at the China Star restaurant. They testified that they were smuggled into the U.S. after their families paid fees as high as $70,000 to smugglers, and that they were referred to the China Star restaurant in Bardstown by "employment agencies" in New York and Atlanta, who also arranged for their transportation. They said they were paid in cash once per month and regularly sent most of their pay to their families. They were required to work 12 hours per day, six days per week, and were paid in cash between $1,000 and $2,500 per month, mostly from tips, according to their testimony at the preliminary hearing. Yang provided an apartment for them, which they shared with several other employees, and they were permitted to eat at the restaurant.

"ICE aggressively targets employers who egregiously violate immigration laws by knowingly employing an illegal alien workforce," said Jerry Phillips, resident agent-in-charge of the ICE office of investigations in Louisville. "We use our broad range of investigative tools and authorities to pursue those who take advantage of illegal labor for profit."

ICE agents initiated the investigation in December 2006 after receiving credible information that illegal aliens were knowingly employed at the restaurant. Agents executed federal search warrants in November at the Bardstown restaurant and apartment building.

The indictment also seeks forfeiture of all property constituting or derived from or traceable to any proceeds of the crime, as well as all property used, directly or indirectly, to commit or to facilitate the commission of the crime.

In the event of a conviction, the maximum potential penalties are 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and supervised release for a period of not more than three years.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Fentress, Western District of Kentucky. Yang is scheduled to appear for arraignment before the U.S. Magistrate Judge Feb. 19 in Louisville.