By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

Min Lin and He Ying Qiu, owners of Sushi House in Jacksonville, Florida, have pled guilty in federal court to harboring undocumented workers for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain. Each faces up to 10 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

Working on a tip, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents conducted a five-month investigation and determined that employees were being transported in a van, driven by Qiu, between the restaurant and a residence, owned by Lin. On January 29, 2018, officers from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) stopped the van as it was leaving the restaurant after it closed. Qiu was driving the van and Lin was the front seat passenger. Four people in the van appeared to be illegally in the U.S.

On June 5, 2018, search warrants were executed at Sushi House and two residences owned by Lin. Before the warrants were served, a JSO officer stopped the van Qiu was driving near the restaurant. Two of the passengers, who also were in the van during the January 2018 stop, were found to be living in the country illegally.

Upon questioning, each of the undocumented workers stated they worked at Sushi House and were paid in cash with no taxes withheld from their pay. They also stated they lived at the residence, but did not pay rent, that Qiu transported them to and from work and that neither Lin nor Qiu had asked them to provide documents to prove that they were legally authorized to work in the U.S.
As part of their plea agreements, Lin and Qiu will forfeit a mobile home, the 2017 Honda Odyssey van they had used to transport the undocumented employees, and $9300 cash seized at their home.

This case is another demonstration of how immigration violations by employers can lead to criminal convictions. 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