Details elusive about State College-area restaurant raids; Homeland Security refuses to talk, at least 11 people in custody

mcarroll@centredaily.comJune 13, 2014 

A number of Asian restaurants that were raided Thursday by federal, state and local authorities opened their doors Friday and are again serving customers.

Federal agents handling the investigation have said little about why authorities entered businesses and homes and took at least 11 people into custody.

It is unclear how many are being detained, where they were taken and why.

Nicole Navas, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division, to whom questions were directed, declined to provide additional comments Friday.

“This is still an ongoing HSI investigation,” Navas said in an email.

“There is nothing of the public record. In order not to compromise this ongoing criminal investigation, no additional details are available at his time.”

U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, provided some clarification Thursday, saying in a statement that the action was “part of an ongoing work site investigation, looking into the hiring of unauthorized workers.”

Of the restaurants that reportedly were targeted Thursday, all had reopened Friday afternoon except My Thai on Westerly Parkway.

Employees at most of the other restaurants either declined to comment or said managers were not available to speak.

Emotions were running high at one of the establishments. A woman affiliated with the restaurant became emotional when speaking about the raid.

She asked not to be identified because she is afraid of possible repercussions.

The woman said she doesn’t know why her restaurant was targeted. She didn’t understand all of the information that investigators were relaying, and the language barrier for employees, some of whom speak very little English, apparently was a problem.

Even reading local news reports was impossible without using an online translator.

“We don’t know what happened,” she said. “We cannot do anything.”

Officers were seen on the scene or employees or ownership confirmed investigations at Hundred Degrees Hot Pot, My Thai and Fuji and Jade Garden, all on Westerly Parkway; Penang on North Atherton Street; College Buffet in the Wal-Mart Plaza off North Atherton; China Wok at Northland Center; and China Dragon on South Allen Street.

There were unconfirmed reports of a police presence at Hunan Wok on East College Avenue and Chen’s Mongolian Buffet on South Atherton Street.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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