Local and federal officials raided Chinese restaurants in Brewer, Lewiston, the Portland area and Waterville yesterday in an investigation over alleged money laundry and illegal immigration.
Police and agents from U.S. Immigrations, Customs and Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection raided the Twin Super Buffet in Brewer, Super China Buffet in Waterville and New China Buffet in Lewiston. Agents were also seen at Kon Asian Bistro in Portland, and Westbrook police said an operation occurred in that city as well, and four people described as immigrants were taken into custody, according to the Portland Press Herald. Additional details were not released. In Brewer, agents also raided a house authorities believe was used to harbor illegal Asian and Hispanic immigrants, according to a complaint filed yesterday in U.S. District Court. The complaint alleged the house's owners are members of the Zhang Operation, which is believed to have engaged in money laundering through its buffet restaurants in Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the Bangor Daily News reported. Officials filed a forfeiture complaint to seize the home.
According to court documents, Zi Qian Zhang, his wife, Ai Hui Lu, and others in the family organization are accused of hiring illegal immigrants at Chinese buffet restaurants, underpaying them and giving them no overtime pay or benefits, as well as failing to withhold income taxes. They also allegedly falsified income and business documents, and housed employees in "squalid" conditions.
In September, federal officials raided Mexican restaurants in Westbrook, Biddeford and Waterville, arresting owners Guillermo Fuentes and his brother, Hector, on charges of hiring and conspiring to harbor illegal immigrants.