St. Johns sushi restaurant managers charged with harboring undocumented immigrants




  • In US
  • 2022-05-17 16:39:21Z
  • By The Florida Times-Union
Tank
Tank's Sushi Bistro Seafood & Steak at 46 Tuscan Way in St. Augustine has been linked to undocumented workers and two managers arrested.  

Two St. Johns County residents were arrested and charged with illegally harboring undocumented immigrants "for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain" by employing them at a local sushi restaurant, according to criminal complaints filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Ge Tang and Yanshen Huang, listed as managers of Tank's Sushi Bistro Seafood & Steak, were arrested on May 11 following an investigation that began in September 2020.

Tang and Huang were born in China but are naturalized U.S. citizens, according to court documents. A follow-up investigation by Homeland Security, which began in September 2020, led to the two arrests.

An agent started looking into the location of a Guatemalan citizen who had been arrested in August of that same year on immigration violations but released with an ankle monitor because he was the sole provider for his younger brother.

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A special agent with Homeland Security wanted to make sure the man was not working because it would be a "violation of the conditions under which he was released by ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement]," according to a complaint filed in federal court.

The agent tracked his locations over a five-day period and noted he had spent most of his time at two separate addresses: Tank's Sushi Bistro on Tuscan Way in World Golf Village and a nearby home in St. Augustine. There is a second Tank's in Ponte Vedra.

When the Guatemalan man cut off his ankle monitor and discarded it on the side of Interstate 95, agents started surveilling the two addresses. According to the complaint, agents saw people who "appeared to be Hispanic" arriving at the restaurant for work and being directed by Huang.

Agents discovered there were several Guatemalan citizens employed at the restaurant who had been arrested previously for working illegally during a previous investigation into other Asian restaurants "harboring" people who were not legal in the U.S.

On May 11, Homeland Security and the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office stopped two vehicles at the restaurant in St. Augustine and five of the people in the cars did not have paperwork to legally work in this country.

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One of the Guatemalan workers entered the U.S. through New Mexico in 2018 and paid $10,000 to be smuggled across the border from Mexico, court documents show. He told investigators he was paid $4,000 in cash each month and his boss paid for his housing and food eaten at the restaurant. The man worked six days a week and about 12 hours per day.

During a search warrant on the home in St. Augustine owned by Tang, investigators say there were several makeshift bedrooms on the first floor and another in a utility closet on the second floor.

A second home in St. Johns owned by one of the accused also housed undocumented immigrants, according to court documents.

The St. Augustine Record profiled Tang in 2016 as the owner of the St. Augustine location.

Similar cases in Jacksonville

There have been other instances in Northeast Florida of sushi restaurants employing people who are not legally permitted to work in the United States.

In 2010 the managers of Sushi Cafe at Riverside Avenue and Margaret Street were federally charged with housing and employing four workers who were Chinese citizens in the U.S. illegally.

The co-owner of Cilantro Indian Cuisine in Mandarin also received a three-month sentence in 2009 for harboring undocumented immigrants and faced deportation to his native India.

Katherine Lewin is the enterprise reporter at the Times-Union covering criminal and social justice issues in Northeast Florida. Email her at klewin@jacksonville.com or follow on Twitter @KatherineMLewin. Contact her for her Signal number to share anonymous tips and documents. Support local journalism!

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Tank's Sushi managers in St. Johns charged in undocumented immigrants case

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