Houston Couple Sentenced in Chinese Restaurant Employment Conspiracy

BEAUMONT, February 6, 2015 - A Houston husband and wife have been sentenced to federal prison for racketeering violations in connection with an employment referral conspiracy in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales and Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Houston today.

Lina Sun, 55, and Chenglun Ma, 58, both pleaded guilty on June 3, 2014, to RICO conspiracy and were sentenced on Feb. 5, 2015 by U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield. Sun was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and Ma received 13 months in federal prison. They were also jointly ordered to submit to forfeiture of a residence located at 8715 Bellaire Blvd. in Houston, $2.2 million money judgment, and forfeiture of $50,000 cash.

According to court documents, Lina Sun and her husband, Chenglun Ma operated the “Hong Li employment agency” in Houston Texas for more than a decade. The principal purpose of the employment agency was the placement of prohibited aliens as food service workers in Chinese/Asian restaurants across the United States. Restaurants securing employees from this scheme have been identified in 20 states, including some as far away as Maine. Some of the most prolific restaurants in the scheme were located in Jefferson County, Texas.

Federal indictments were returned on Nov. 7, 2013, charging 32 individuals with RICO conspiracy and conspiracy to transport, harbor, and encourage and induce aliens to reside in the United States.

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) offices in: Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and New Orleans; U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Air and Marine; U.S. Marshals Service; and Police Department’s in Houston, Port Author and Beaumont. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Craft.

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