Ocean City Restaurant Operators Sentenced in Scheme to Employ and Harbor Illegal Aliens
Ordered to Forfeit Property Worth Over $2 Million
Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Andre M. Davis today sentenced husband and wife Bo Hao Zhu, age 33 and Siu Ping Cheng, age 30, of Ocean City, Maryland, each to 18 months probation for evading taxes and unlawfully employing aliens, respectively, in connection with their employment of illegal aliens at two Ocean City restaurants, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. Judge Davis sentenced Zhu & Partners, LLC to pay a fine of $50,000 for alien harboring and inducing aliens to reside in the United States. Judge Davis also ordered all the defendants to forfeit their interests in property worth over $2 million, located at 12902 Ocean Gateway Highway in Ocean City.
“Employers that hire illegal aliens and pay them under the table gain an unfair advantage over law-abiding businesses,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “In order to make sure that crime does not pay, we need to take the profit out of crime.”
“As part of our enforcement strategy, ICE targets businesses and employers who violate immigration laws and launder their illicit proceeds through the U.S. financial system,” stated James A. Dinkins, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “The individuals sentenced today, to include a corporation, have harbored and employed illegal aliens. In addition, Zhu and Cheng laundered their proceeds of the businesses to hide their ill-gotten gains.”
“Paying employees in cash to evade taxes is a crime. Those employers who practice this method of paying salaries will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” stated C. Andre' Martin, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge.
According to their plea agreements, Bo Hao Zhu owned and operated the Miyako Sushi and Seafood Buffet (Miyako) and Panda China Buffet (Panda Buffet) restaurants in Ocean City, Maryland. In September 2004, Zhu & Partners, LLC purchased 12902 Ocean Gateway Highway, where Miyako is located, for $2,300,000. Panda Buffet is located at 12641 Ocean Gateway Highway.
In February 2005, a bank employee observed Siu Ping Cheng depositing large amounts of cash into Panda Buffet’s accounts. Over several months, ICE agents also observed several individuals, believed to be illegal immigrants, traveling in Bo Hao Zhu’s vehicle from Panda Buffet, where they worked, to Zhu and Cheng’s condominium. A review of immigration records in June 2006 revealed that six of 11 occupants of the condominium who were employees of Panda Buffet were in the country illegally. In June 2007, agents established that four of eight employees working at both restaurants were in the country illegally. Zhu and Cheng had knowingly hired these illegal aliens and paid them in cash for less wages than the law required. From 2005 to 2007, Zhu & Partners, LLC concealed numerous illegal aliens from detection in residences and businesses it owned and rented.
During 2007, Zhu paid wages to employees of his restaurants, resulting in employment taxes owed to the government of $6,798.10. Zhu failed to pay these employment taxes and provided false information to the IRS concerning wages paid to his employees.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police, the Ocean City Police Department and the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation for their investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorney Steven H. Levin, who prosecuted the case.