BEAUMONT, Texas (CN) - Federal agents arrested the owners of two employment agencies on charges of trafficking hundreds of undocumented Hispanic workers for exploitation in Houston's famed Chinatown.
The multistate raid also included the arrest of dozens of owners of Chinese restaurants in Houston, Dallas, Arkansas and Louisiana, among other places.
Thirty-two defendants are accused of immigration conspiracy and violating federal anti-racketeering law, prosecutors say.
The indictments allege the Long Li Job Agency and Tai Shan Employment Agency recruited illegal aliens primarily from Mexico and Central America.
"These workers routinely worked 12 hours a day, six days a week, they were not paid overtime, not permitted to receive tips or gratuities, and were paid in cash by the restaurants," prosecutors said in a statement. "The restaurants profited by avoiding payment of employment taxes and did not provide any benefits such as health insurance, vacation or sick time. Workers were paid far less than minimum wage, did not receive health examinations, food safety training, or any job training at any time while employed."
Restaurant owners allegedly provided the bad living conditions into which their workers were crammed.
"Living arrangements were overcrowded and sometimes consisted of air mattresses or floors for sleeping," prosecutors said. "For instance, 18 people were found to be housed in a 2000 square foot house."
Those charged include:
Lina Sun, 54, of Houston, owner of Long Li; Chenglun Ma, 57, of Houston, owner of Tai Shan; Chang Jin Song, 56, of Houston; Zhiqiang Li, 59, of Houston; Chenzong Yu, 44, of Houston; Jin Zhu Wang, 50, of Port Arthur, Texas; Li Qiu Jiang, 52, of Port Arthur, Texas; Hua Zhu Dong, 45, of Port Arthur, Texas; Wei Ji Zheng, 38, of San Marcos, Texas; Wen Juan Zhang, 34, of San Marcos, Texas; Chanjuan Xie, 31, of Sanger, Texas; Xue Fang He, 28, of Sanger, Texas; Zhen Yin Weng, 55, of Little Rock, AR; Dan Hui Lu, 32, of Dallas; Zeng Yu Huang, 50, of Mineola, Texas; Jian Tuan Dong, 47, of Rockwall, Texas; Jian Jun Ma, 60, of Houston; Liang Gao, 42, of Houston; Shoufang Jiang, 43, of Houston; Jiang Ping Zhang, 65, of Houston; Wen Jian Wen, 26, of Houston; Xiaofeng Zhu, 43, of Sugar Land, Texas; Xianghong Sun, 54, of Missouri City, Texas; Yan Mao, 39, of Brownwood, Texas; Yip Keung Leung, 40, of Brownwood, Texas; Selena Ling Feng, 37, of Nacogdoches, Texas; Zongxian Zhu, 41, of Nacogdoches, Texas; Jing Heng Jiang, 51, of Bastrop, LA; Hua Lin, 30, of Allen, LA; Houng Chen, 39, of Abbeville, LA; and Jin Zhu Fang, 38, of Abbeville, LA.
Each defendant faces up to 20 years in prison on the racketeering charge and up to 10 years on the immigration conspiracy charge.
Brian Moskowitz, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Houston, said the alleged scheme helps push illegal aliens "deeper into the shadows."
The jobs that the defendant allegedly marketed illegally "serve as a magnet" for more illegal immigration, Moskowitz added.
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