News and Press Releases

Woman housed undocumented workers and employed them in her restaurant

February 2, 2006

YAN SHU, 31, of University Place, Pierce County, Washington was sentenced today to one year and one day in prison in U.S. District Court in Tacoma for Harboring and Concealing Illegal Aliens. SHU is a legal resident alien, but the felony conviction means she likely will be deported to her native China following her prison term. U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton ordered SHU to pay $51,923 in restitution. The money is to be used to pay back wages to the victims she unlawfully employed in her restaurant. Judge Leighton referred to SHU and co-defendant JING ZHENG as “predators” who “exploited” those they illegally harbored and induced to remain in the United States.

SHU was arrested June 20, 2005 after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents found eight people living in her University Place home did not have legal status to reside in the United States. Agents were led to the home by a package from China that was intercepted by Customs agents in San Francisco. Inside they found a phoney Chinese Passport had been hidden in a space hollowed out of a magazine. The package was destined for a woman at SHU’s University Place home. When agents arrived at the home they found a dozen people living there, many of whom worked at SHU’s Tacoma restaurant, the Rainbow Buffet. Eight of the individuals did not have legal status to remain in the United States. Interviews of these undocumented workers also disclosed that they either had not been paid for their work, or were being paid extremely low wages.

SHU told agents she knew the immigrants were in the country illegally. SHU drove the workers in vans to and from her University Place home to the restaurant. SHU paid her employees as little as $300 per month for working ten to twelve hour days at the restaurant. She did not report the wages to the appropriate state or federal agencies. The working conditions violated wage and hour laws. The criminal restitution imposed will be in lieu of civil fines that otherwise could be imposed by the Department of Labor.

SHU pleaded guilty on August 3, 2005. A co-defendant, SHU’s boyfriend JING ZHENG was sentenced to one year and one day in prison and three years of supervised release on November 18, 2005. ZHENG is also subject to the criminal restitution order.

The case was investigated by U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ye-Ting Woo.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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