- Associated Press - Sunday, June 17, 2018

LEXINGTON, Ky. — A federal case against a Chinese restaurant owner in Kentucky is shedding light on how Hispanic immigrants work in the country illegally, including what an investigator says are phone numbers for those immigrants to find work at Chinese restaurants nationwide.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that the owner of Asian Buffet in Shelbyville, 49-year-old Fei Zhou Tang, was charged with harboring people in the country illegally in a criminal complaint Thursday in Lexington federal court.

In an affidavit, U.S. State Department investigator Tracey Lunsford said one Hispanic immigrant whom she interviewed told her there used to be offices in Texas and Chicago for job referrals, but they switched to phones only after police raids. The Hispanic man, Salvador Salazar Gomez, said there “many phone numbers to call,” Lunsford wrote in the affidavit.

The affidavit says Tang housed immigrants in the country illegally in the other side of his duplex, and drove them to and from work. Tang has lawful permanent resident status.

When police searched Tang’s restaurant, employee Beth Tillman told officers that Hispanic immigrants used the number to find work and were charged about $700 to get a job, according to the affidavit.



Gomez said he used a fake birth certificate obtained in Mexico to secure a Mexican passport, the affidavit states.

Gomez said he was last smuggled into the country illegally through Laredo, Texas in the summer of 2017, and he found a job at Asian Buffet in Shelbyville by calling a phone number provided by a cousin, the affidavit says.

Gomez said it cost $100 to get the job and $100 for a transport fee from where he had been staying with his cousin in Cincinnati, the affidavit states.

The restaurant owner covered the cost and deducted the money from Gomez’s first paycheck, Gomez told investigators, adding that he was paid $1,250 in cash every two weeks and was never mistreated.

Gomez was fired from the job and investigators interviewed him while he was in custody at Tarrant County Corrections Center in Ft. Worth, Texas, the affidavit states.

The affidavit said Tang told investigators that he did not know the workers brought in by drivers were in the country illegally, saying, “no, they had ID.” Tang changed the subject and refused to answer when investigators pressed for more details, the affidavit says.

An attorney for Tang did not immediately return a call and email for comment Saturday.

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