Kan. restaurants linked to federal probe involving undocumented workers

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 9:16 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KWCH) - The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that the owner of dozens of Mexican restaurants in several states, along with the company’s president, CFO, controller and sales manager are among 19 defendants charged in a federal racketeering conspiracy to hire undocumented workers. Also among those charged are eight current or former restaurant managers in several Missouri cities, as well as Overland Park, Great Bend and Augusta in Kansas.

“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents, with the assistance of numerous local, states, and federal agencies, executed a series of search warrants (Wednesday, Aug. 25) at 10 locations in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. Federal agents have so far arrested 14 of the 19 defendants,” a news release form the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said the federal indictment accuses 17 of 19 defendants of being part of an organized criminal enterprise from July 2003 to Aug. 10, 2021. The indictment said the enterprise involved the smuggling of Mexican, Guatemalan and El Salvadoran nationals who were not authorized to live or work in the United States.

“Conspirators allegedly harbored them in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Federal agents said Playa Azul locations in Wichita, Augusta, Pratt and Great Bend were among restaurants with undocumented employees. The described leader of the operation is the owner of a food distribution company in Joplin, Mo.

The justice department said the leader and his co-conspirators allegedly supplied restaurants with undocumented workers to staff positions.

“According to the indictment, conspirators did not pay the appropriate state and federal payroll taxes, overtime wages, and worker’s compensation for the unauthorized employees,” the

In all, the 19 defendants in the case face 64 felony charges under the indictment.

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