Feds: Conspirators staffed Asian restaurants in State College with illegal immigrants

By Jason Cato and Michael Hasch, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

July 17–The owners and managers of six Asian restaurants in State College are accused of minimizing costs and maximizing profits by recruiting and exploiting illegal aliens who work for them.

Jing Mei “Jimmy” Jiang, 51 of Boalsburg and seven associates — all Centre County residents — were charged Thursday with recruiting unauthorized alien workers through employment agencies in the Chinatown area of New York City and paying them at a rate well below minimum wage, federal prosecutors inHarrisburg said.

“The sad reality is that the exploitation of illegal alien workers at job sites is rampant throughout the United States,” said Joe Guzzardi, a spokesman for the organization Californians For Population Stabilization.

“The owners realize the illegal aliens are in the United States unlawfully with very few options for employment and little education, they speak little English and are perfect targets to be paid under the table, way below minimum wage,” said Guzzardi, who is now a resident of Wexford.

Jiang and his codefendants — all members of what prosecutors dubbed the “Jiang organization” — are charged with defrauding the United States andPennsylvania by under-reporting employees in audit and tax documents and making false financial records for quarterly employee wages.

Others charged are: Yu Mei Chen, 50, Xin Xing Jiang, 27, Yan Jin Jiang, 30, all of Boalsburg; and Xue Jiang, 36, Jian Bin Chen, 39, Yong Cheng Chen, 38, and Hua Zhen Dong, 37, all of State College. Court documents do not say if the defendants are related.

All are accused of securing an illegal workforce from Mexico, Guatemala, Thailand and China to work at six State College restaurants: Fuji Jade Garden, 100 Degree Hot Pot, My Thai Restaurant, C&J Hunan Wok, Penang Restaurant and China Dragon, court documents state.

“The government also filed plea agreements with each of the eight defendants which are subject to the approval of the court,” according to a statement fromDawn Mayko, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith.

“The case is part of a continuing investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Labor,” Mayko said.

Court documents state that the defendants hired at least 18 illegal aliens since 2013 and transported them by commercial buses, vans and other vehicles toState College, where they would work and be housed. Prosecutors contend that the scheme began in 2005, but the total number of exploited aliens is not included in court documents.

Jiang is accused of handling finances for the restaurants. He could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison on charges of harboring and concealment of illegal immigrants and 20 years imprisonment for wire fraud.

The maximum penalty for the other defendants is five years imprisonment.

The government is seeking forfeiture of two single-family homes in State College, two furnished apartments and some $65,000 in cash seized from one home and a restaurant.

Jason Cato and Michael Hasch are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Cato can be reached at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com. Hasch can be reached at 412-320-7820 or mhasch@tribweb.com.

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