$16M Forfeiture Sought in Ohio Restaurant Indictments

$16M Forfeiture Sought in Ohio Restaurant Indictments

"A grand jury returned a 23-count indictment charging six people for their roles in a conspiracy to hire undocumented workers at a chain of restaurants in Stark and Summit counties and pay them less than minimum wage and sometimes only in tips, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District.

Prosecutors are also seeking to forfeit more than $16 million generated by the restaurants.

Indicted are owners Miguel Castro, age 44, and Monica Castro, age 43, both of Uniontown, Ohio; and managers Cesar Castro, age 28, of Akron; Aldo Castro, age 42, of Akron; Pedro Cervantes, age 39, of Mexico; and Gustavo Torres, age 45, of Kent, Ohio.

“The owners and managers of these restaurants took advantage of their workers’ immigration status for their own profit,” Dettelbach said.

“Employers have a legal responsibility to protect the integrity of their workforce,” said Marlon Miller, special agent in charge of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations in Detroit, which covers Michigan and Ohio. “When companies engage in schemes that flout immigration laws, workers are often exploited and businesses that play by the rules are put at a significant disadvantage.”

The defendants face charges including conspiracy to harbor undocumented aliens, aiding and abetting the harboring of undocumented aliens, harboring undocumented aliens, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and mail fraud. Miguel Castro and Monica Castro also are charged with making false statements to federal law enforcement officers.

Since 2002, the defendants owned and/or managed the seven “Mariachi Locos” and “Mariachi Cocos” chain of restaurants with locations in Akron, Stow, Tallmadge and North Canton.

The defendants engaged in the practice of hiring undocumented workers who were illegally present in the United States and conspired to shield these workers from detection by paying them in cash, excluding them from payrolls, leasing housing for the workers, and aiding the workers in obtaining fraudulent work documentation, according to the indictment.

The defendants also used the U.S. mail to submit false wage reports to the state of Ohio. The defendants’ employment practices enabled them to enrich themselves because they paid the undocumented workers less than minimum wage and did not pay these workers for overtime hours worked, according to the indictment.

In some cases, the defendants paid these workers only the tips that the workers received from their customers, according to the indictment.

The indictment seeks the forfeiture of $16,474,870 in gross proceeds that the defendants earned as a result of the offenses." - DOJ, Dec. 13, 2013.