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Worksite Enforcement

3 plead guilty in harboring illegal aliens at Korean room salon

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - On Wednesday, the owner and the managers of a room salon in Falls Church, Va., pled guilty to conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens for commercial advantage and financial gain. This investigation was led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations.

"Those profiting from the employment and harboring of illegal aliens will be aggressively pursued by ICE," said John P. Torres, special agent in charge of the ICE HSI office in Washington, D.C. "Companies whose business models incorporate the use of illegal alien workers will be held accountable."

According to court records, the defendants admitted that they had employed female, Korean illegal aliens to serve as waitresses and hostesses of the room salon. The defendants admitted that since December 2007, at least 24 illegal aliens worked at the club and were harbored by the conspiracy.

"This office is committed to the vigorous enforcement of our immigration laws, which are vital to our national security and well-being," said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil H. MacBride. "We bring these cases to hold employers accountable and ensure that they abide by laws designed to protect both foreign and domestic workers and the citizens of the United States."

Sang Bun Surh, a/k/a" Chung Madame," 52, of Annandale, Va., owns a bar known alternatively as "High Society" "Tomato," and "Tomato Garden." Advertised as a room salon, the bar contains several private rooms where customers, primarily Korean men, consumed liquor. Provocatively dressed Korean women then serve the drinks to the customers and drink, flirt, sing, and dance with the customers. A bottle of liquor at High Society/Tomato typically costs $300 and customers were required to purchase at least a bottle. The defendants admitted that the establishment grossed in excess of $4 million since December 2007.

Since December 2007, dozens of female employees that investigators encountered at the High Society/Tomato were illegal aliens from the Republic of Korea. The conspirators admitted that they used apartments in Annandale, Va., to harbor the illegal aliens who work at High Society/Tomato and that they or co-conspirators sometimes booked flights for the aliens.

The three defendants who pleaded guilty are:

  • Sang Bun Surh, a citizen of Republic of Korea and a lawful permanent resident of the United States, who was the owner of High Society/Tomato.
  • Young Mi Kim, 41, a citizen of Republic of Korea and a conditional resident of the United States, who is a manager of the High Society/Tomato. In addition to the conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens charge, Kim also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud based on her own fraudulent marriage to a United States citizen.
  • Hyeon Chul Kim, 55, a citizen of Republic of Korea who is unlawfully present in the United States and who was also a manager of High Society/Tomato.

If convicted all three defendants face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. They will be sentenced on Feb. 25, 2011. The defendants have also agreed to cooperate with authorities in the continuing investigation.

ICE HSI was assisted in this investigation by Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, the Fairfax County Police Department and the Falls Church Police Department.