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Press Release

Grocery Store and Manager Plead Guilty to Hiring Undocumented Workers; Court Imposes $500,000 in Fines and Penalties

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

Assistant U. S. Attorney Stephen H. Wong (619) 546-9464 and Jennifer McCullough 546-8773    

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – December 21, 2020

SAN DIEGO – Zion Market and its former general manager, Timothy Moon, pleaded guilty in federal court today to knowingly hiring undocumented employees who were not authorized to work in the United States.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael S. Berg ordered Zion Market to pay a $500,000 fine plus special penalty assessments of $25,050. The court also ordered Moon to pay a $5,000 fine plus an additional $5,000 in special penalty assessments.

In the court-filed plea agreement, Zion Market admitted that between 2011 and 2019, about half of the market’s 100-person work force was not authorized to work in the United States, and that it had employed undocumented aliens as early as 2003, through as recently as 2019. Zion acknowledged that it realized a pecuniary gain of at least $500,000 by employing illegal aliens. Moon, the market’s manager, knew that the illegal aliens could not legally work in the United States, but hired and continued to employ the aliens as part of a pattern and practice of employing unauthorized aliens. Upon learning of the investigation, Zion took steps to comply with federal immigration and labor laws.

Under federal law, employers are required to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all individuals they hire, and to document that information using the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9. Homeland Security Investigations continues to focus on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly break the law and will continue to audit employers’ immigration forms, such as the Form I-9 that verifies employees’ authorization to work in the United States. Homeland Security Investigations will also employ civil fines to encourage compliance with the law. Worksite enforcement investigators help combat worker exploitation, illegal wages, child labor, and other crimes collateral to worksite enforcement.

“Federal labor and immigration laws protect American workers by requiring employers to hire only U.S. citizens and aliens who are authorized to work in the country,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “Zion Market ignored those laws for over a decade, and today Zion and its general manager paid a high price for that conduct. We will continue to vigorously enforce immigration laws where we find employers engaging in a pattern or practice of hiring unauthorized individuals in reckless disregard of the law.” Brewer praised prosecutor Stephen Wong and agents with Homeland Security Investigations for their excellent work on this case.

“Today’s sentencing is an example of HSI’s commitment to the investigation of employers who knowingly break the law to exploit workers and conduct other illegal practices,” said Cardell Morant, HSI Special Agent in Charge for San Diego. “These investigations hold employers accountable by eliminating unfair advantages for companies that hire an illegal workforce, protecting jobs for those who are legally employed.”

DEFENDANTS                                            Case Number 20-mj-3948-MSB                                          

Zion Market Inc., 7655 Clairemont Mesa, Inc.                                 

Timothy Moon                                                Age: 41                                   San Diego, CA


Continuing to Employ Unauthorized Aliens – Title 8, U.S.C., Section 1324a(a)(2) and 1324(f)(1), a misdemeanor

Maximum penalty for an individual: Six months in prison and $5,000 fine

Maximum Penalty for an organization: Fine of $10,000 or not more than twice the gross pecuniary gain realized from the offense, whichever is greater


Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)


Updated December 21, 2020

Press Release Number: CAS20-1221-Moon