BIG SPRING, TX -- A restaurant owner in Big Spring has been sentenced to federal prison after illegally employing undocumented immigrants.
According to the Department of Justice, back in March 45-year-old Voum Chhuon pleaded guilty. He was charged with harboring illegal aliens and unlawful employment of illegal aliens.
The investigation began earlier this year when the Howard County Sheriff's Office provided a tip to Homeland Security alleging Chhuon was employing illegal aliens at his restaurant.
After conducting an investigation, Homeland Security agents learned Chhuon was paying his kitchen staff in cash while his waiters were paid with a paycheck.
In collaboration with the Big Spring Police, the Howard County Sheriff's Office conducted traffic stops on two of the restaurant's cooks.
The cooks, identified as Simon Hernandez-Bautitsta and Justino Antonio-Martinez, were determined to be in the United States illegally.
During interviews with law enforcement, the two men confirmed Chhhuon knew they were not authorized to work. In addition to being paid in cash once a week, the two men lived with Chhuon.
The investigation revealed Chhuon unlawfully hired served men without filling out any paperwork or requesting any documentation that established they could legally work. After hiring the illegal workers, he would provide room and board at his residence and transportation to the restaurant.
The undocumented workers were identifed as Sergio Martinez-Martinez, Julio Esteban Perez-Florez, Jose Manuel Castillo-Hernandez, Sergio Ramiro Avila-Perez, Simon Hernandez Bautitsta, Justino Antonio Martinez, Lazaro Zepeda-Rocha, and Primitivo Hernandez-Amezquita.
During a search of Texas Cajun, Homeland Security agents located two undocumented individuals.
In nearly 4 years, Chhuon made a total revenue of $2,985,631 or $82,000 a month by hiring illegal labor.
A forensic accountant further determined Chhuon transferred $137,801 from his Texas Cajun business account to pay off a personal mortgage for a residence located in Pearland, Texas.
While being questioned by law enforcement Chhuon admitted his entire kitchen staff was undocumented and that he had been employing illegal aliens since he purchased the restaurant.
Chhuon was sentenced to serve 15 months in federal prison and pay a $100,000 fine.