Owners And Operators Of Japanese Restaurants Indicted In Conspiracies Related To Harboring Undocumented Workers

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NASHVILLE – A nine-count federal indictment, unsealed today, charges four individuals with conspiracy to harbor undocumented workers while employing them to work at various mid-state restaurants, harboring undocumented workers, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, announced U.S. Attorney Mark H. Wildasin for the Middle District of Tennessee. The indictment also charges these individuals and another person with conspiracy to defraud the United States by failing to collect and pay employment taxes to the IRS.

Those charged in the indictment are: Zhongzhi “Tommy” Zhuo, 46, Jianping “Alan” Zhuo, 37, and Xiaofen “Joyce” Zhuo, 38, all of Hendersonville, Tennessee; and Jianhua “Jason” Zhuo, 35, and Lili Wu, 32, both of Gallatin, Tennessee.

The indictment alleges that Zhongzhi, Jianping, and Jianhua Zhuo, along with Lily Wu, as the owners or operators of several middle Tennessee restaurants, participated in a scheme to harbor persons who were in the United States illegally, by providing a means of financial support through employment at the restaurants and providing them with housing and transportation. The restaurants identified in the indictment include the Fuji Japanese Steakhouse, with locations in Hendersonville, Goodlettsville, and Whitehouse, Tennessee; Bonfire Mongolian Grill, with locations in Hendersonville, Clarksville, Mount Juliet, and Spring Hill, Tennessee; and the Koi Japanese Steakhouse in Gallatin, Tennessee.

The indictment also alleges that residential properties owned or leased by one or more of the defendants were used to house undocumented workers, including properties in Hendersonville, Gallatin, Goodlettsville, Clarksville, Mount Juliet, and Spring Hill.

Other allegations in the indictment include that these defendants communicated with and paid a broker to find and deliver undocumented workers to work at the restaurants; employed undocumented workers without requiring them to complete applications or collecting any documents to determine the worker’s immigration status and employment authorization; housed the undocumented workers at the residences; transported the undocumented workers between the residences and restaurants; and maintained separate books accounting for payments to undocumented workers made outside of the regular payroll system.

The allegations also include that these defendants, along with Xiaofen “Joyce” Zhuo, conspired to defraud the United States by paying undocumented workers in cash; failed to withhold and pay employment taxes to the IRS; and refused to allow undocumented workers to pay taxes, including for those that had Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers. These defendants also conspired to provide understated wages to tax preparation businesses that prepared and filed tax forms with the IRS.

The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation in which the United States seeks to forfeit four residences involved in the commission of the offenses, bank accounts, and a money judgement representing the amount of the proceeds of the crimes.

The charges carry maximum penalties between 5 and 20 years in prison, if convicted.

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations; IRS-Criminal Investigation; the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; and the Hendersonville Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert S. Levine and Thomas J. Jaworski are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is merely an accusation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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