Neighbors say they saw no reason to be suspicious of houses feds say harbored illegal immigrants
MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – The Chinese restaurant at the heart of a federal fraud and money laundering indictment today sits vacant, a wooden board covering the broken glass front door.
Two houses less than 20 minutes away are situated in a quiet neighborhood. Neighbors told FOX10 News that they had no clue the people living in them during the period described in the indictment were – as prosecutors allege – living and working illegally in the United States.
Prosecutors contend that a white 2011 GMC van ferried workers to the restaurant and back home to a pair of houses owned by defendants in the case. One of those houses was in the 3600 block of San Juan Drive and one in the 500 block of Newport Drive West.
“Extremely quiet,” said Lakesha Fagan, who has lived near the San Juan Drive house for 15 years. “You know, you can hear the cars drive by. It’s really quiet out here. … Everybody normally just stays in and wave as they go in and go out. I hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary.”
Another neighbor, who did not want to be identified, said she noticed the people living in the Newport Drive West house. She said she recognized one of her neighbors as an employee when she would go to the restaurant.
“They just looked like they were going to work,” she said. “They had on their little aprons because they worked at that Chinese restaurant. But they just looked like they were working. Didn’t look like anything illegal or suspicious was going on.”
The woman said she and her neighbors minded their own business.
“We never spoke to them,” she said. “The only time we’d ever speak is if we went to the restaurant, and they knew we were neighbors. Just say, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ That was it. … There was nothing ever to complaint about. They were always quiet.”
According to court records, Zheng Kong Zheng owns the house on Newport Drive West. He also owned the property where China Super Buffet was located. His sister, Kong Mei Zheng, is the owner of the San Juan Drive house and also was listed as the restaurant’s president.
Those two pleaded not guilty to federal charges on Tuesday, along with Zheng Kong Zheng’s wife, De Yun Wang, and Zheng Guo Zheng, who owned the restaurant and was its chief executive officer. The fifth defendant, Yan Jiao Zhuo, also pleaded not guilty.
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