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Business Owners Sentenced for Employing Illegal Aliens
Employment Agency and Restaurant Owners Provided Jobs and Transportation for Illegal Aliens to Work at Chinese Restaurants

U.S. Attorney’s Office April 21, 2011
  • Northern District of Georgia (404) 581-6000

ATLANTA—PILI CHEN, 56, of Norcross, Georgia, who was both an employment agency owner and driver, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Timothy C. Batten, Sr. for recruiting and employing illegal aliens in Chinese restaurants, where they were provided housing and transportation to work. Today’s sentencing follows the January 2011 sentencings in a related case of owners and operators of a neighboring agency and a Chinese restaurant in the Atlanta area.

United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said of the case, “These defendants not only broke the law by employing workers who were illegally in the United States, they exploited the workers by subjecting them to long shifts, substandard pay, and poor working conditions. As this case shows, we will hold employers responsible—including business owners and managers—who attempt to gain an unlawful economic advantage by hiring employees who are not permitted to be in the United States.”

“These sentencings send a clear message that there are real consequences for willfully recruiting and employing an illegal workforce,” said Brock Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Atlanta. “Working in conjunction with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to aggressively target those who take advantage of illegal labor to make a profit.”

FBI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Lamkin said, “This case was the result of a joint FBI/ICE operation which shut down a network that not only recruited and employed illegal aliens but exploited their vulnerabilities. Human trafficking, no matter what the underlying purpose is for, is a process of systematically exploiting others for personal gain. The FBI remains committed in its endeavor of combating human trafficking in all of its many and varied forms, including alien smuggling.”

PILI CHEN, 56, of Norcross, Georgia, was sentenced to one year and four months in prison to be followed by three years’ supervised release. On January 31, 2011, Judge Evans sentenced three defendants. AI LIN FU, 41, of Norcross, Georgia, was sentenced to one year and two months in prison. SAU TING CHENG, 42, of Duluth, Georgia, was sentenced to 10 months in prison and a $3,000 fine. LIANG FENG CHEN, 33, of Duluth, Georgia, was sentenced to two years’ probation, including three months of home confinement, and a $1,000 fine. FU, CHENG, and PILI CHEN’s prison sentences are to be followed by three years of supervised release.

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges, and other information presented in court: PILI CHEN and co-defendant XIAO PING LI, owned and operated an employment agency named “New Fuzhou” in Chamblee, Georgia, while AI LIN FU owned and operated a similar agency, “Zhong Mei Employment Agency,” in the same Chamblee shopping center.

The agencies obtained employment for illegal aliens, primarily undocumented Mexican workers, across the eastern United States. Neither agency required or requested any proof that the aliens had permission to be or work in the United States. They advertised in Chinese language newspapers and on the Internet. Employers called the agencies and requested workers for various jobs, usually in the kitchens of Chinese restaurants. The agencies charged the illegal aliens a commission and transportation fee to place them in the job and drive them there, and in some cases charged the restaurant owners, who deducted the fees from their illegal workers’ modest pay. FU’s husband and co-defendant, XIAN CHEN, operated Zhong Mei Employment Agency with FU and drove workers to the restaurants. PILI CHEN operated New Fuzhou with his wife XIAO PING LI, and also transported the workers. The employment agencies used paid drivers to minimize contact between the illegal aliens and the outside world, including law enforcement. XIAN CHEN fled to Canada after the indictment and has been ordered extradited to the United States. XIAO PING LI remains a fugitive.

SAU TING CHENG owned and operated a Chinese restaurant in Duluth, Georgia, named “Grand Buffet and Grill.” LIANG FENG CHEN was the manager at the restaurant. CHENG and CHEN hired illegal aliens through Zhong Mei Employment Agency. To better monitor the workers and shield them from detection, CHENG housed them at a nearby apartment complex and had them transported to and from work in 15-passenger vans. She also paid the workers in cash to avoid paying unemployment taxes. As the restaurant manager, CHEN participated in the pattern of hiring and employing the workers, knowing that the aliens were unauthorized to work in the United States, and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for his more limited role in the scheme.

These cases were part of a larger operation in June 2010 that involved the separate indictments of the owners and drivers of four employment agencies at 3146 Chamblee Dunwoody Road and the administrative arrests of 39 illegal aliens associated with the agencies and restaurants.

This case was investigated by special agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (HSI), Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Assistant United States Attorneys Brian M. Pearce and Stephen H. McClain prosecuted the cases.

For further information please contact Sally Q. Yates, United States Attorney, or Charysse L. Alexander, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, through Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Attorney’ s Office, at (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney’ s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.

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