Feds: Smugglers, Restaurants Profited from Human Trafficking
By Timothy Bolger on October 9th, 2010
Three suspects remain at large after federal agents rounded up 23 people allegedly involved in a Chinese human trafficking ring that forced victims to work in restaurants in slave-like conditions in New York City, Long Island and the Tri-State area, authorities said.
The owner of Dynasty Buffet in Patchogue one of several restaurant owners accused of profitting off of cheap labor provided by a Chinese human trafficking ring.
Those accused were arraigned on conspiracy, illegal alien harboring and money laundering charges at Manhattan federal court Thursday.
The alleged traffickers charged up to $75,000 to smuggle each of the 70 people into the United States starting in April. Once here, the accused smugglers made the victims’ families pay off the fee while victims were forced to live in squalor and work in restaurants—including a Chinese buffet in Patchogue—at below minimum wage, prosecutors said.
“These defendants allegedly trafficked in human beings, making money off the backs of illegal immigrants and treating them like chattel,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
Three were charged with laundering the smuggling fees, six were accused of smuggling the workers and 18 were alleged to have harbored the victims, who were placed at the restaurants through employment agencies in the Chinatown neighborhood of Manhattan.
“The targets of this investigation are business owners and smugglers who allegedly sought to enrich themselves by depriving their employees of basic human rights,” said James T. Hayes, Jr., special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations in New York.
Among the restaurant owners charged was Kui Lin, owner of Dynasty Buffet on Sunrise Highway in Patchogue. A woman who answered the phone at the restaurant said “he’s not here right now” and hung up.
The restaurants owners face up to 10 years in prison, the alleged smugglers face up to 15 years and the accused money launderers face up to 20 years.
The workers who are witnesses in the case could eventually be allowed to stay in the country although it remains to be seen if the same is true for all 70.
The suspects who remain at large include Mao Ping Li, also known as “Jackie Li,” Yi Min Ren, and Moi Ha Chek, also known as “Christine.”
The investigation is continuing.