2 Nacogdoches residents among 32 arrested for recruiting illegal immigrants to work in restaurants

Source: US Attorney's Office
Source: US Attorney's Office

BEAUMONT, TX (KTRE) - Two Nacogdoches residents are among 32 Texans named in an indictment alleging they were part of a conspiracy ring which employed illegal immigrants in the Chinese restaurant industry. One of the restaurants listed in the indictment is Nacogdoches' Asian City.

According to court documents, two employment referral businesses operating out of Houston recruited unauthorized immigrants, mostly from Mexico and Central America, for work in the restaurant industry. Those workers routinely worked 12 hours a day, six days a week, were not paid overtime, did not receive tips and were paid in cash by the restaurants, according to the indictment. The restaurants profited by avoiding paying employment taxes and by not providing employee benefits. They were paid far less than minimum wage, according to the indictment.

According to the indictment, the workers had unfavorable living arrangements. They were overcrowded and sometimes consisted of air mattresses or floors for sleeping.

Among the charged are Selena Ling Feng, 37, and Zongxian Zhu, 41, of Nacogdoches.

"The Hong Li Job Agency and the Tai Shan Employment Agency operated a 'take-out and delivery service' for restaurants across the region - but they didn't deliver food. Instead, they delivered people illegally present in the United States to greedy restaurant owners and managers looking for cheap labor," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Houston. "The illicit efforts of the defendants and others like them help push those unlawfully here deeper into the shadows, and the jobs they market serve as a magnet for future illegal immigration."

Nacogdoches Restaurant Implicated

Asian City in Nacogdoches is named in the indictment. The North Street restaurant is located in the Continental Inn Complex.

Tonight it was business as usual.

The owner wasn't there. An employee who identified himself as related to the owner said he was unaware of any human smuggling.

Shin Feng later placed a phone call he said to the owner's wife. Feng then shared, "finding Chinese workers in East Texas is difficult, so the industry often commissions hiring agencies."

Feng said apparently a firm Asian City used in the past "got busted". Feng speculated that, "perhaps Asian City's name was found in the firm's records."

Asian City has been in operation for at least 20 years. The restaurant displays recognition it received in 1990 for being the best Asian restaurant by popular vote. It displays a certificate of appreciation for its contributions to a nearby elementary school. Asian City also participates in dining promotions for SFA students.

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