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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Northern California Restaurant Owner Sentenced To 24 Months In Prison For Obstructing The Tax Laws And Harboring Illegal Aliens For Profit

SAN FRANCISCO – Yaowapha Ritdet, a Ukiah, California, restaurateur, was sentenced today to 24 months in prison for corruptly endeavoring to obstruct the internal revenue laws and harboring illegal aliens for profit, announced U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Ryan Spradlin, and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge Michael T. Batdorf.  The sentence was handed down by the Honorable Judge Edward M. Chen, U.S. District Judge, following the entry of a plea agreement in August 2016 in which Ritdet admitted committing the crimes.

According to her plea agreement, Ritdet, 56, of Ukiah, admitted she 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 underpaid these employees and instructed them not to speak to anyone about their immigration status.  Ritdet also paid her employees in cash and did not pay employment taxes on the cash wages.  Ritdet also admitted she willfully filed false individual income tax returns for 2007 through 2011 that underreported the gross receipts, sales, and income received from her two restaurants. In addition, Ritdet acknowledged she failed to report she had a financial interest in an account at a Thai bank. 

On August 2, 2016, Ritdet was charged in a superseding information with one count of corrupt endeavor to impede and impair the lawful administration of the internal revenue laws, in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7212(a), and one count of harboring illegal aliens for private financial gain, in violation of 8 U.S.C. § § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii), and (B)(i).  She pleaded guilty to both counts on August 17, 2016.

In addition to the 24-month prison term and restitution, Judge Chen ordered Ritdet to pay more than $560,000 in restitution— $496,987.00 to be paid to the IRS and $70,768.65 to be paid to the employees whose wages she underpaid. Further, Judge Chen ordered Ritdet to serve three years of supervised release.

Assistant U.S. Attorney José A. Olivera and Trial Attorney Charles O’Reilly of the Tax Division are prosecuting the case. U.S. Attorney Stretch and Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg thanked the prosecutors as well as special agents of IRS–Criminal Investigation; Homeland Security Investigations, who conducted the investigation; and the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, who identified the underpayment of wages and overtime. 

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Human Trafficking
Tax
Updated June 22, 2017