The owners of San Marcos restaurant Asian Garden were arrested this weekend in connection to a human trafficking ring based out of Houston.
Wei Ji Zheng, 38, and Wen Juan Zhang, 34, were arrested along with 32 other individuals Jan. 30 for racketeering and immigration violation charges. The individuals were charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, according to the indictment of the 32 people involved.
The restaurant was still open and operating as of Monday.
Court documents state two businesses operating out of Houston have been bringing people into the country illegally from Mexico and Central America and hiring them at Chinese restaurants in Texas and Louisiana.
The immigrants worked 12 hours six days a week for less than minimum wage, according to the indictment. The restaurants paid the immigrants in cash, and they were not allowed to accept tips or receive overtime. Health benefits, food safety and job training were not provided, according to a press release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
While in Texas and Louisiana, the immigrants did not have proper places to live and sometimes resided at the restaurant operators’ homes, according to the press release. For instance, up to 18 people were found living in a 2,000 square foot home, and many of the employees slept on air mattresses and floors, according to the press release.
The restaurant owners profited from the workers’ labor since they paid them in cash and did not have to pay employment taxes to the government, according to the indictment.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigation offices in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and New Orleans, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Air and Marine, U.S. Marshals and Houston, Port Arthur and Beaumont Police Departments are currently investigating the case.