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March 20, 2015Minneapolis, MN, United StatesLabor Exploitation

Minnesota restaurant owner, manager plead guilty to hiring illegal aliens

MINNEAPOLIS — Two men pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to hiring numerous illegal aliens to work in Twin City Chinese buffet-style restaurants.

These guilty pleas resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Ming Guo, 46, of North Miami Beach, Florida, owner of two Twin Cities restaurants named Hibachi Grill and Supreme Buffet, and Bijian Went (aka Wilson) 28, of Spring Lake Park, Minnesota, and manager of the restaurants, each entered guilty pleas on one charge of knowingly hiring 10 or more illegal aliens.  The two were charged with the crime Jan. 26.

“The guilty pleas today should send a strong message to the Minnesota business community — companies that knowingly employ unauthorized aliens subject themselves to investigation, and they will be punished accordingly.” said Special Agent in Charge J. Michael Netherland, of HSI St. Paul. “Our goal is to protect job opportunities for the nation’s legal workers, and to level the playing field for those businesses that play by the rules.”

“Undocumented workers are vulnerable to exploitation,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Provinzino, District of Minnesota. “Those who intentionally employ undocumented immigrants allow for these workers to be taken advantage of. Disrupting labor trafficking and punishing those who don’t follow the law is critical to ensure the safety of both legal and unauthorized workers.”

According to the guilty pleas and other documents filed in court, from Sept. 30, 2013 through Sept. 30, 2014, Guo and Weng knowingly hired and employed at least 17 individuals who were not authorized to be employed or lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States. On Sept. 30, 2014, HSI special agents executed search warrants at restaurants in Spring Lake Park and West St. Paul, Minnesota. They identified 17 undocumented workers working in the restaurants.

Additionally, Guo and Weng were aware that the employees were not authorized to work in the United States. Moreover, the defendants did not ask the employees to fill out paperwork, including I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms. Guo and Weng also failed to report the unauthorized workers to the Minnesota Department of Economic Development. The employees were paid in cash “off the books.”