Justice News

Department of Justice
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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Northern California Restaurant Owner Pleads Guilty to Obstructing the Internal Revenue Laws and Harboring Illegal Aliens for Profit

A Ukiah, California, restaurateur pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen for the Northern District of California to corruptly endeavoring to obstruct the due administration of the internal revenue laws and to harboring illegal aliens for profit, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo, head of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch of the Northern District of California, Special Agent in Charge Ryan Spradlin of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Special Agent in Charge Michael T. Batdorf of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).

Yaowapha Ritdet, 56, admitted that she knowingly hired Thai nationals who were illegally present in the United States to work at her restaurants, Ruen Tong Thai Cuisine and Walter Café, both located in Ukiah.

Ritdet further admitted that she underpaid employees and instructed them not to speak to anyone about their immigration status.  Ritdet also admitted that she willfully filed false individual income tax returns for tax years 2007 through 2011, failing to disclose gross receipts, sales and income received from her two restaurants, as well as rental income and a foreign bank account and failed to accurately report employment taxes owed for her restaurant employees, who were paid in cash.

Ritdet is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 22, 2017.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo and U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch commended special agents of IRS-CI and HSI, who investigated the case; the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, which identified the underpayment of wages and overtime; and Trial Attorney Charles A. O’Reilly of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jose A. Olivera, who are prosecuting the case.

Additional information about the Tax Division’s enforcement efforts can be found on the division’s website.

Press Release Number: 
Updated August 17, 2016