By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

The owners of a restaurant in Meridian, Mississippi, Guo Guang Lin and Cheng Lin, have pleaded guilty in federal court to harboring undocumented workers at their China Buffet II and have agreed to forfeit almost $1 million and pay a $200,000 fine. Additionally, the owners will serve two years’ probation and implement an immigration compliance program.

From 2012 through January 2017, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents observed a 15-passenger van registered to China Buffet II making multiple trips to a house owned by China Buffet of Meridian Inc. to pick up undocumented workers who were living there and transport them to the restaurant where they worked, and back to the home. On February 22, 2017, HSI agents executed a search warrant at China Buffet and found nine undocumented workers. None of them completed I-9 forms nor showed any documents or identification when they were hired as employees. Also, the employees were not asked about their immigration status.

These undocumented workers were paid in cash and lived at the house owned by China Buffet II. A monthly payroll ledger discovered during the search listed their names, dates worked, amounts paid and other information from July 2013 through January 2017. The ledger was separate from the payroll records for legal employees. The defendants also failed to withhold and pay federal income taxes on these workers, and report wages to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security or the IRS.

This case is another demonstration of how costly immigration violations can be for employers. If you want to know more information on employer immigration compliance, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at