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January 18, 2022Covington, KY, United StatesLabor Exploitation

ICE HSI investigation leads to conviction for harboring undocumented workers

COVINGTON, Ky. — Following a three-day jury trial in federal court, an Alexandria, Kentucky, couple was convicted of harboring undocumented workers.

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky Carlton S. Shier, IV, and HSI Nashville Special Agent in Charge Jerry C. Templet, made the announcement on Friday.

The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) working with the Alexandria (Kentucky) Police Department.

After four hours of jury deliberation, Yun Zheng, aka Wendy, 50, and Yan Qui Wu, aka Jason, 48, were found guilty of four counts of concealing, harboring, or shielding a person, whom they knew to be undocumented residents of the United States, for commercial advantage and private financial gain.

According to trial testimony, from 2014 to 2017, husband and wife Zheng and Wu owned and operated the Tokyo Dragon Buffet restaurant in Alexandria, Kentucky, where they employed at least four undocumented workers. Evidence established that Zheng and Wu knew, or recklessly disregarded facts indicating, that these workers were undocumented. Evidence also established that Zheng and Wu housed these workers in their own home and provided virtually all their transportation, to avoid detection.

While working at the restaurant, one of the workers was badly burned by hot oil. The owners initially refused to take him to the hospital because, in one of the defendant’s own words, he was present illegally and would be deported if the owners transported him to the hospital. This investigation began when the worker eventually received treatment several days later. The nurses treating him were so disturbed by what he described, as well as the defendants’ conduct, that one of them called a law enforcement hotline.

Sentencing for Zheng and Wu is scheduled for May 4, 2022. For each of the four counts, they face up to 10 years in prison, up to a $250,000 fine, and restitution. However, any sentence following the conviction will be imposed by the court, after its consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal sentencing statutes.

HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of DHS, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Learn more about HSI Nashville’s activity in your community at @HSI_Nashville.