NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A federal judge sentenced a 38-year-old Nacogdoches woman who was among 32 people arrested in connection to a conspiracy ring that employed illegal immigrants in the Chinese restaurant industry last week to two years probation.
According to documents the East Texas News obtained on Monday, U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield sentenced Selena Ling Feng to two years of probation for a federal felony charge of conspiring to transport, harbor, encourage, and induce aliens to reside in the United States illegally and waived her fine. She pleaded guilty to the charge on Aug. 12, 2014.
Feng will be subject to the normal rules of probation. She could face prison time if she commits a local, state, or federal criminal offense during her two-year probation period.
Zongxian Zhu, 42, of Nacogdoches, was also among the 32 people arrested in connection to the human smuggling ring. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport, harbor, encourage, and induce aliens to reside in the United States on Sept. 16, 2014. Zhu's sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 5.
As part of the agreement, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas dropped all of the other charges that were pending against Zhu. He will be sentenced after a pre-sentencing investigation.
In January 2014, Feng and Zhu were among Texans listed in an indictment that alleged they were all part of a conspiracy ring which employed illegal immigrants in the Chinese restaurant industry. One of the restaurants listed in the indictment was 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.
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."