Crime

Ringleader in State College illegal immigrant worker case sentenced

The acknowledged ringleader of an organization that provided undocumented workers for six Chinese restaurants in the State College area was sentenced to 15 months in jail on Friday.
The acknowledged ringleader of an organization that provided undocumented workers for six Chinese restaurants in the State College area was sentenced to 15 months in jail on Friday. Centre Daily Times, file

The acknowledged ringleader of an organization that provided undocumented workers for six Chinese restaurants in the State College area will go to jail for 15 months.

U.S. Middle District Judge Matthew W. Brann on Friday sentenced Jing Mei Jiang, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor and transport illegal aliens and wire fraud.

His sentence also includes two years of supervised release and a $50,000 fine he must pay within six months after being released from prison. He is to self-report May 16.

Because Jiang lost his citizenship in an unrelated matter, he faces the prospect of facing deportation to his native China. He arrived in the United States nine years ago, but when charged last year he owned or co-owned six Chinese restaurants in the State College area.

The restaurants are China Dragon, Fuji and Jade Garden, 100 Degree Hot Pot, My Thai Restaurant, C&J Hunan Wok and Penang Inc.

A June 12, 2014, sweep of those restaurants netted 18 illegal workers.

Jiang, 52, was one of eight charged in the scheme. The other seven, including three who were sentenced Friday, pleaded guilty to a harboring charge and were each placed on probation for two years and fined $500.

Jiang was facing at least 21 months in prison, but Assistant U.S. Attorney William A. Behe asked for a lesser sentence, citing unspecified cooperation.

In arguing for a jail sentence, Behe used the word greed and said it was Jiang’s intent to build an empire.

The restaurants he had were profitable to the point he did not need to hire undocumented workers and pay them in cash less than the minimum wage, he said.

Jiang apologized through an interpreter, because he does not speak English. He also talked about working hard so he could bring his family to the United States.

The scheme involved recruiting Asians and Hispanics from Mexico, Guatemala, Thailand and China to work in kitchens through an employment agency in New York’s Chinatown.

A Chinatown accounting firm prepared false unemployment compensation documents that were wired to state offices in Harrisburg.

Jiang’s New York City attorney, Joel S. Cohen, claimed his client was following the suggestions of professionals.

One of those also sentenced Friday was Jiang’s son, Xin Xin Jiang, 28, who asked for leniency for his father.

Yan Jin Yang, 30, and Yu Mei Chen, 51, also were sentenced Friday while Yong Cheng Chen and his wife, Hua Zhen Dong, and Jian Bin Chen and his wife, Xue Jiang were in January.

There are forfeiture clauses in the plea agreements.

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