Undocumented Employees Land Restaurant Owners in Jail

Restaurant owners can be put behind bars for hiring employees without any documentation. One such incident came to light recently in Akron, Ohio. Miguel Castro and his wife Monica Castro, owners of a chain of Mexican restaurants in Summit and Stark counties were convicted for hiring undocumented workers, for paying them less than minimum wage and failing to pay them overtime. The owners paid these workers in cash in order to avoid placing them on payroll records, leased housing for them and also helped them obtain fraudulent work documentation. Such acts were in violation of 8 U.S. Code § 1324 (bringing in and harboring certain aliens), 18 U.S. Code § 1001 (statements or entries), 18 U.S. Code § 1341 (frauds and swindles, and 18 U.S. Code § 371 (conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud).[1]

The defense argued that the owners’ engagement of such a practice was through the time that Miguel spent working at other people’s Mexican restaurants. Dissatisfied by the arguments, the U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi opined that the defendants should have known that they were committing wrong when they were forging or lying on documents.

Both pleaded guilty in the conspiracy to harbor undocumented workers, aiding and abetting harboring undocumented workers, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and mail fraud. Consequently, on May 4, 2015, Judge Lioi sentenced both husband and wife to thirty-three months and three months in prison respectively.

The couple agreed to forfeit $100,000 as per a plea agreement. Judge Lioi further opined that both will be on a supervised release for three years once they have served their sentence.

The other defendants in the case were Miguel’s brothers, Cesar Castro and Aldo Castro, the restaurant manager, Gustavo Torres, who too were found guilty for their involvement and are yet to be sentenced. Pedro Cervantes, the sixth defendant is a fugitive and is yet to face charges.

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