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ICE investigation leads to indictments of employment agency owners

Employer hired and transported unauthorized workers for Chinese restaurants

ATLANTA - Following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation, a federal grand jury indicted ten defendants on charges of conspiring to induce undocumented aliens to remain in the United States by providing them with employment, predominantly at Chinese restaurants, and transporting aliens to the restaurants, all for commercial gain.

"Employment is the key magnet drawing illegal aliens across our borders, and criminals may attempt to profit from it," said Kenneth Smith, Special Agent in Charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Investigations in Atlanta. "The ICE investigation discovered that the owners of these employment agencies established a complex organization to recruit and exploit unauthorized workers."

United States Attorney David E. Nahmias said, "Those who provide illegal immigrant laborers to businesses for profit have violated the law and face federal prosecution and prison time. Transporting illegal workers or providing so-called 'safe houses' to stay in while they find jobs is also a criminal act. In addition to being crimes against the United States, these offenses often lead to abusive conditions for the illegal workers, who may believe they have no recourse if they are not paid sufficiently or are mistreated by their employers."

Named in five indictments handed down by the grand jury were: Deng Yao Wen, 44, of Lilburn, Ga.; Pik To Cheng, a/k/a "Shirley Wise," 48, of Norcross, Ga.; Lin Chen, 31, of Norcross, Ga.; Hong Mei Li, a/k/a "Jenny Li," 40, of Tucker, Ga.; Francisco Martinez Anaya, 31, of Chamblee, Ga.; Aleck Ki Man Hui, 70, of Suwanee, Ga.; Armando Dominguez Lopez, 42, of Chamblee, Ga.; Yutong Jiang, 51, of Norcross, Ga.; Edmundo Herrera, 29, of Chamblee, Ga.; and Yifeng Yang, 23, of Tucker, Ga.

Pik To Cheng and Deng Yao Wen were arraigned late yesterday and granted bond. Hong Mei Li, Lin Chen, and Armando Dominguez Lopez are scheduled for bond hearings and arraignments tomorrow before Magistrate Judge Linda T. Walker.

Other charges filed against Hong Mei Li, Yifeng Yang, Pik To Cheng, Francisco Martinez Anaya, Yutong Jiang, and Deng Yao Wen include substantive counts of transporting aliens for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain, in reckless disregard of the fact that the aliens were in the United States and remained here in violation of federal law.

According to United States Attorney Nahmias, the charges and other information presented in court: From October 2006 through April 2008, the employment agency owners, Hong Mei Li, Lin Chen, Pik To Cheng, and Deng Yao Wen, allegedly conspired with others to transport and provide jobs to immigrants who were illegally in the country and not authorized to work here. Specifically, the illegal immigrants were taken to Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Florida, and Alabama, where they were provided jobs in Chinese restaurants and warehouses.

The indictment alleges that the employment agencies would not require any proof or documentation that the immigrants were lawfully allowed to work in this country. The employment agencies advertised in Asian language newspapers and then charged the undocumented aliens a commission to place them in the restaurant. The restaurants often provided housing and paid the workers in cash to avoid paying taxes on them.

Alleged co-conspirators Armando Dominguez Lopez, Yifeng Yang and Francisco Martinez Anaya allegedly provided temporary housing in apartments to illegal immigrant laborers while they waited in the Atlanta area for job placements. The aliens were charged a fee to stay in the apartments.

Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government's burden to prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

This case is being investigated by Special Agents of ICE, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Postal Inspection Service, with assistance from the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office and Chamblee Police Department.

Assistant United States Attorneys Susan Coppedge and Brian Pearce are prosecuting the case.