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UPDATE: Homeland Security continues investigation into worker smuggling ring
Homeland Security agents in several states tonight are looking for the remaining suspects in what investigators describe as a conspiracy to hire undocumented workers in order to save money on staffing restaurants.
According to a federal indictment released today, two of the restaurants are in Jefferson County.
U.S. Attorney Michael Bale announced that federal agents arrested 23 out of 32 people indicted in connection with the illegal immigrant trafficking operation spanning at least seven states including Texas and Louisiana.
According to the indictments, Hong Li Enterprise and Tai Shan Enterprise recruited illegal immigrants and transported them to work primarily in Asian restaurants, where they were often housed by the restaurant operators. The operations were advertised in Chinese language newspapers and magazines. According to the indictment, restaurants paid a finders fee to the enterprise and paid workers $1,000 to $2,000 a month before taking fees from their salaries including hundreds of dollars a month for living in conditions prosecutors call deplorable.
Investigators say restaurant owners paid the workers in cash, avoiding any taxes.
Earlier today, federal agents from Homeland Security raided four Port Arthur homes and arrested people at each. Fox 4's Haley Bull got a look inside the homes and the living conditions.
The indictment seeks the forfeiture of the Grand Buffet and the home on Lamplighter Lane.
If convicted, the indicted people face up to decades in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.