- Associated Press - Thursday, September 10, 2015

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The owner of a central Kansas gasoline station and convenience store admitted Thursday hiring immigrants who were not authorized to work in the United States.

Satishkumar Patel, 47, pleaded guilty to routinely employing workers living illegally in the U.S. at the Route 56 Express gas station and convenience store in McPherson. He paid his workers in cash and didn’t withhold federal income and Social Security taxes. Patel also admitted he operated a money remitting business without the required state license.

His 36-year-old wife, Daxaben Patel, pleaded guilty to operating an unlicensed money remitting business.

The Patels are citizens of India who are themselves living illegally in the United States, prosecutors say. Their separate plea agreements warn the convictions may have deportation and other immigration consequences, but notes those are subject to a separate proceeding and no one can predict with certainty the effect on their immigration status.

The couple agreed under the plea deals to forfeit about $706,000 in cash, bank accounts, and gold seized by the government.

“This is what happens when employers ignore U.S. employment, business and tax laws,” U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said in a news release. “They face prosecution for their crimes and the loss of assets obtained in connection with those crimes. Contrary to what some may think, it is not legal to employ people not authorized to work in this country, nor is it legal to ignore our business and tax laws.”

Under his plea agreement, the parties propose that Satishkumar Patel be sentenced to either the five months of home detention, which his defense team is seeking, or the three months of prison sought by the government. The plea deal for Daxaben Paten calls for one year of unsupervised probation. If the judge disagrees with the proposed sentences, the defendants would be allowed to withdraw their guilty pleas.

The gas station came to the attention of authorities when inspectors from the Kansas Department of Revenue observed employees selling tobacco products to minors. Investigators later determined that several employees were illegally in the country, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Sentencing is set for Nov. 25.

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