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ICE Investigates Restaurants


La Opinion, Claudia Nunez

Dozens of restaurant owners are facing charges of money laundering, human trafficking, Social Security fraud and identity theft, reports La Opinion. This is due to a new strategy of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Last month, ICE filed criminal charges against three food franchise owners. Juan Nuno Ramirez, owner of three restaurants, pleaded guilty to helping 15 immigrants obtain visas, work permits and fraudulent immigration documents and then hiring them. Ramirez faces six months in prison and a fine of $3,000 for each undocumented employee. Immigration attorney Michael Wildes said that authorities have focused inspections on the medium-scale restaurants who, in the economic crisis, choose to hire undocumented workers or don't have the resources to do proper paperwork. 

According to an analysis by the College of Law at the University of Illinois, almost 25 percent of a random sample of work centers sanctioned by ICE in 2008 were restaurants. An ICE spokesperson in California said that audits of restaurants uncover other areas of serious crimes, such as money laundering and exploitation of undocumented workers. As part of ICE's new initiative, the inspections of workplaces have skyrocketed. So far this year, 164 companies have received administrative sanctions in California, and 62 face criminal charges. 



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