ALBUQUERQUE — Two New Mexico brothers will forfeit their residence, and were each sentenced Tuesday to two years of probation for harboring illegal aliens and violating the federal minimum and overtime wage laws.
These sentences were announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, District of New Mexico. This investigation was conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) in Albuquerque, and the U.S. Department of Labor.
Wen Ping Chen, 30, of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, and his brother Wen Qiu Chen, 31, of Santa Fe, were also ordered to forfeit a residence located on Aztec Court in Rio Rancho that was used to facilitate the Chens’ criminal conduct. Although the amount of restitution to be paid by the Chen brothers will be determined at a later date, the court noted that the restitution order will be at least $120,000.
Ping Chen and Qiu Chen, both naturalized U.S. citizens born in China, were arrested in August 2013 following an investigation into allegations that they were harboring illegal aliens who worked at their restaurants. The Double Dragon Restaurant in Rio Rancho is owned and operated by Ping Chen; the Double Dragon II in Santa Fe is owned and operated by Qiu Chen. The brothers subsequently were charged in a seven-count superseding indictment alleging conspiracy, alien harboring, and failing to pay minimum and overtime wages.
According to court filings, in October 2012, federal agents executed search warrants at the Double Dragon and a Rio Rancho residence owned by Ping Chen and Qiu Chen. The agents found three illegal aliens at the Double Dragon and another illegal alien at the residence, which served as the residence for all four aliens. All four illegal aliens worked for Ping Chen at the Double Dragon without authorization.
In May 2013, federal agents executed search warrants at the Double Dragon II and a Santa Fe residence owned by Qiu Chen, and discovered five illegal aliens at the Double Dragon II. Agents learned that all of the Double Dragon II employees resided in the Santa Fe residence owned by Qiu Chen. The five illegal aliens worked for Qiu Chen at the Double Dragon II without employment authorization.
On Dec. 12, 2014, Qui Chen pleaded guilty to Counts 5 and 7 of the superseding indictment charging him with harboring an illegal alien and failing to pay minimum and overtime wages. Ping Chen pleaded guilty to harboring illegal aliens and failure to pay minimum and overtime wages.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Norman Cairns and Raquel Ruiz-Velez, District of New Mexico, prosecuted this case.