Fairfield woman sentenced to 14 months on harboring aliens, money laundering and tax charges

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BANGOR, Maine – A restaurant manager from Fairfield was sentenced March 25 to 14 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release for harboring undocumented aliens for commercial advantage and private financial gain. The sentence is the result of an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and conducted with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Waterville Police Department.

In addition to harboring undocumented aliens, Mei Juan Zhang, 31, of Fairfield, was also sentenced Tuesday for money laundering conspiracy, and conspiracy to file false employer's quarterly federal tax returns. In addition to imprisonment, Zhang was ordered to pay restitution of $54,288 to the IRS. Zhang pleaded guilty to the charges April 18, 2013.

"HSI is committed to holding businesses accountable when they knowingly hire an illegal workforce," said Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge of HSI Boston. "Employers who willfully violate our nation's hiring laws gain an unfair economic advantage over their law-abiding competitors. Our goal is to protect job opportunities for the nation's legal workers and level the playing field for those businesses that play by the rules."

According to court records, between 2009 and 2011, the defendant was the manager of the Grand Asian Buffet and the Super China Buffet, located on Kennedy Memorial Drive in Waterville. In that capacity, she managed a Chinese buffet restaurant that brought undocumented aliens into Maine. The investigation revealed that about half of the employees at the buffet over that period were undocumented, and that the defendant’s activities concealed about $250,000 in wages and thwarted the collection of about $55,000 in employment taxes.

The workers and were housed in a cramped residence on Oak Street in Waterville and transported directly to and from work each day where they were expected to work six to seven days per week, 12 hours per day. Zhang paid the workers under the table with cash generated illegally by the employment of undocumented aliens, and filed numerous false quarterly employment tax returns in which the undocumented aliens were not disclosed and employment taxes were not properly withheld or paid.

HSI has a vital responsibility to enforce the law and engage in effective worksite enforcement to reduce the demand for illegal employment and protect employment opportunities for the nation's lawful workforce. HSI employs an effective, comprehensive worksite enforcement strategy that addresses both employers who knowingly hire illegal workers as well as the workers themselves.

HSI focuses its resources in the worksite enforcement program on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal workers, in order to target the root cause of illegal immigration. Furthermore, HSI uses all available civil and administrative tools, including civil fines and debarment, to penalize and deter illegal employment. To learn more about worksite enforcement, click here.

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