MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Three stakeholders of the China Super Buffet in Mobile were sentenced to probation and ordered to forfeit over $1.5 million in assets for illegally employing people and providing homes for them, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Alabama.
Zheng Kong Zheng, 57, of Mobile, was sentenced to two years probation with the first six months on home confinement with electronic monitoring. Zheng was ordered to forfeit over $500,000 and five separate residential properties.
De Yun Wang, 54, a Chinese national, was sentenced to one year probation. She was ordered to forfeit over $500,000 and five residential properties.
Kong Mei Zheng, 55, a Chinese national, was sentenced to one year probation and ordered to forfeit over $200,000 and a residential property.
According to court documents, Zheng Kong Zheng and his sister, Kong Mei Zheng owned and operated the buffet until 2019. Since “at least” 2014, the restaurant unlawfully employed aliens and housed them at a harboring residence owned by Zheng Kong Zheng and De Yun Wang near the restaurant in Mobile.”
According to the release, the illegal workers lived free of charge and the utilities and taxes on the home were paid from restaurant bank accounts.
“The restaurant operated for several years by transporting illegal workers in a passenger van between the harboring residence and the restaurant,” reads the release. “The restaurant concealed the illegal employment practice and the presence of the illegal workers by paying them in cash.”
The workers earnings were not reported to the Alabama Department of Labor, but lawful workers’ wages were.
In September 2019, Kong Mei Zheng transferred her interest to her brother, Zheng Kong Zheng. He then became the sole owner. Authorities say the hiring of illegal workers continued.
While Zeng Kong Zheng was the owner, the restaurant applied for funding under “Small Business Administration programs designed to assist businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Department of Justice says the restaurant received $445,307 in SBA loans “based on the false information it had provided in its applications.”
Co-defendants Zheng Guo Zheng and Yan Jiao Zhuo were previously sentenced in November 2022, according to the release.
Zheng Guo Zheng, 67, a Chinese national, was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to forfeit over $15,000. They were fined $40,000 for the passenger van used to transport workers and ordered to pay full restitution of $445,307 to the SBA.
In July 2022, Yan Jia Zhuo, 58, a Chinese national, was sentenced to time served for unlawful employment of aliens.
According to the release, the defendants entered into plea agreements in which they agreed to “forfeit over $1.5 million in assets, including cash and the estimated value of the residences constituting illegal proceeds stemming from their convictions for harboring and the restaurant’s illegal labor practices.”
The following contributed to the investigation:
- Homeland Security Investigations
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection – Office of Field Operations
- U.S. Small Business Administration – Office of Inspector General
- Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation
- U.S. Department of Labor – Office of Inspector General