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June 2, 2011

MANAGERS AND SUPERVISORS OF MAMBO SEAFOOD INDICTED

(HOUSTON) – Two current managers and three former managers or supervisors of Mambo Seafood have been indicted for conspiring to induce illegal aliens to come to the U.S. and harboring and concealing illegal aliens and individually for making false statements on employment documents, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) acting Special Agent in Charge John Connelly announced today.

Mambo Seafood is the assumed business name for Connie’s Seafood Kitchen Inc. with eight seafood restaurant locations located within the greater metropolitan area of Houston with corporate headquarters located on the 6100 block of Airline Drive in Houston. 

A federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment under seal on Wednesday, June 1, 2011, charging Operations Manager Joel Moreno, 36, former restaurant managers Alfredo Aguilar Gonzalez, 43, and Alejandro Aguilar Gonzalez, aka Eduardo Martinez, 27, former supervisor Victor Batz, 49, and current supervisor Romelia Lopez, 26, with conspiracy to encourage and induce aliens to illegally reside in the United States and to harbor the aliens beginning in April 2009 to the present. Each defendant is also charged with one count each of making false statements on employment documents during the existence of the conspiracy.

Following the return of the indictment, arrest warrants issued for all five defendants. Moreno, Alfredo Gonzalez and Batz were arrested yesterday, while Lopez was arrested this morning.  A warrant for the arrest of Alejandro Gonzalez remains outstanding. With the exception of Alejandro Aguilar Gonzalez, who is a Mexican national allegedly illegally in the United States, all of the defendants are natural or naturalized U.S. citizens. The indictment was unsealed today as to all defendants following the initial appearance of Moreno, Gonzalez and Batz before a U.S. Magistrate Judge. Lopez is expected to make her initial appearance later today or tomorrow. The court has ordered Moreno, Gonzalez and Batz released on bond pending trial which has been set for Aug. 9, 2011,  before United States District Judge David Hittner. 

According to allegation in the indictment, on Dec. 2, 2009, HSI agents conducted a worksite enforcement action at Mambo Seafood’s corporate headquarters and two restaurants, one located at on the 6100 block of Airline Drive and the second on the 10000 block of Long Point Road. Thirty-three illegal alien employees were found and detained by HSI agents and numerous immigration documents were seized.

Federal law requires that employers to hire only United States citizens and aliens who are authorized to work in the United States. Employers must verify employment eligibility of any persons hired after Nov. 6, 1986, using the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9), which further requires the employer to examine, at the time of hire, the documentation provided by the individual that establishes his identity and employment eligibility to ensure that the documents presented appear to be genuine and to relate to the individual. The employer must retain the I-9 for three years after the date of hiring or one year after the date the individual’s employment is terminated, whichever is later. Additionally, it is unlawful for a person or entity, after hiring an alien for employment, to continue to employ the alien in the United States knowing the alien is (or has become) an unauthorized alien with respect to such employment.

The indictment alleges that as part of the conspiracy the defendants, as Mambo Seafood managers and supervisors, knowingly sought to employ illegal aliens with little or no regard to the legal status of the workers; hired many unauthorized non-U.S. citizen aliens for jobs by accepting fraudulently completed 1-9 forms and allowed alien workers to use multiple social security numbers and identities during the course of employment.

A conviction for conspiring to induce aliens to remain in the country illegally and harboring illegal carries a maximum punishment of 10 years incarceration without parole. Making false statements on employment forms carries a maximum punishment of five years incarceration. Each of the five counts of the indictment are also punishable by maximum fines of $250,000.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Douglas Davis and Julie Searle are prosecuting the case. 

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.      

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