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Three admit to housing illegal immigrants who worked at their Chinese restaurant in Mobile

Zheng Kong Zheng.
Zheng Kong Zheng.(Baldwin County Corrections Center)
Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 12:49 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Three people involved in a now-defunct Chinese restaurant pleaded guilty Wednesday to employing illegal immigrants, the culmination of a tip dating all the way to 2009.

Pleading guilty in Mobile’s federal court to harboring illegal aliens on Wednesday were:

  • Zheng Kong Zheng, who incorporated the Super China Buffet on Airport Boulevard in 2000.
  • De Yun Wang, who was Zheng’s wife and also worked in the restaurant.
  • Kong Mei Zheng, Zheng Kong Zheng’s sister, identified as the owner of the restaurant.

According to a written plea agreement, the U.S. Border Patrol in May 2009 received an anonymous tip that China Super Buffet was hiring workers who had entered the country unlawfully.

Zheng Kong Zheng and Wang admitted that they set up the workers at a house they owned on Newport Drive West and another on San Juan Drive owned by Kong Mei Zheng. The defendants admitted to paying utilities and taxes on the houses from restaurant management accounts.

During the workday, a 2011 GMC van owned by the restaurant transported the workers and back and forth between the restaurant and home, according to the plea agreement.

Law enforcement officers stopped the van four times from 2015 to 2018. Each time, a restaurant owner or manager was driving the van, according to the plea documents. The workers were from China, Medico and Guatemala, those documents show.

The defendants admitted to paying the workers in cash to conceal their employment. They were not listed in Alabama Department of Revenue wage records.

At about the end of August 2019, Kong Mei Zheng sold her interest in the restaurant to her brother, Zheng Guo Zheng. Charges remain pending against him and another defendant, Yan Jiao Zhuo.

The maximum penalty is 10 years in prison, although prosecutors agreed to recommend leniency and drop more serious charges.

The defendants also agreed to surrender $722,650 seized from bank accounts and safe deposit boxes, along with the properties where the illegal immigrant workers were living. The defendants also are giving up four properties in Orlando. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss a civil lawsuit seeking other assets.

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