PORT ARTHUR (KBMT) -- Four houses in Port Arthur are among around a dozen locations federal agents raided Thursday morning as part of an investigation into human smuggling. One person from Mineola and two from Nacogdoches have been indicted as you will see below.
At least three people were arrested at a house located at 8624 Lamplighter Lane. One of the men arrested told 12News that he is not a U.S. resident. The others arrested did not respond to our questions.
Police allowed 12News to take a tour of the house on Lamplighter. The interior of the Lamplighter house was divided into eight small 'apartments.' Each was lettered A,B,C, etc. Even the garage was divided into apartments.
In addition to the three people arrested, there were others at the Lamplighter house when the raid began. Police made those people move out of the house and a city inspector was called to check for other violations.
Other homes raided in Port Arthur are located at 3824 Chandelle Lane, 4437 Kandywood Drive and 3325 Roshan Court.
The arrests made in Port ARthur are the result of an investigation carried out by a task force of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The investigation has resulted in 32 defendants charged with RICO and immigration violations.
According to court documents, two employment referral businesses operating out of Houston recruited unauthorized aliens, mostly from Mexico and Central America, for work in the Chinese restaurant industry. Investigators say these workers routinely worked 12-hour days, six days a week. They were not paid overtime, not permitted to receive tips or gratuities, and were paid in cash by the restaurants. The restaurants profited by avoiding payment of employment taxes and did not provide any benefits such as health insurance, vacation or sick time. Workers were paid far less than minimum wage, did not receive health examinations, food safety training, or any job training at any time while employed.
Officials say the workers were subject to unfavorable living arrangements provided by the restaurant operators, either at the operator's residence or at an off-site residential location. Living arrangements were overcrowded and sometimes consisted of air mattresses or floors for sleeping. In one instance, 18 people were found to be housed in a 2000 square foot house.
Arrests of the indicted individuals began Thursday. The following individuals have been charged:
• Jin Zhu Wang, 50, of Port Arthur, Texas;
• Li Qiu Jiang, 52, of Port Arthur, Texas;
• Hua Zhu Dong, 45, of Port Arthur, Texas;
• Lina Sun, 54, of Houston;
• Chenglun Ma, 57, of Houston;
• Chang Jin Song, 56, of Houston;
• Zhiqiang Li, 59, of Houston;
• Chenzong Yu, 44, of Houston;
• Wei Ji Zheng, 38, of San Marcos, Texas;
• Wen Juan Zhang, 34, of San Marcos, Texas;
• Chanjuan Xie, 31, of Sanger, Texas;
• Xue Fang He, 28, of Sanger, Texas;
• Zhen Yin Weng, 55, of Little Rock, AR;
• Dan Hui Lu, 32, of Dallas;
• Zeng Yu Huang, 50, of Mineola, Texas;
• Jian Tuan Dong, 47, of Rockwall, Texas;
• Jian Jun Ma, 60, of Houston;
• Liang Gao, 42, of Houston;
• Shoufang Jiang, 43, of Houston;
• Jiang Ping Zhang, 65, of Houston;
• Wen Jian Wen, 26, of Houston;
• Xiaofeng Zhu, 43, of Sugar Land, Texas;
• Xianghong Sun, 54, of Missouri City, Texas;
• Yan Mao, 39, of Brownwood, Texas;
• Yip Keung Leung, 40, of Brownwood, Texas;
• Selena Ling Feng, 37, of Nacogdoches, Texas;
• Zongxian Zhu, 41, of Nacogdoches, Texas;
• Jing Heng Jiang, 51, of Bastrop, LA;
• Hua Lin, 30, of Allen, LA;
• Houng Chen, 39, of Abbeville, LA; and
• Jin Zhu Fang, 38, of Abbeville, LA.
Federal indictments were returned on Nov. 7, 2013, charging individuals with RICO conspiracy and conspiracy to transport, harbor, and encourage and induce aliens to reside in the United States. If convicted, defendants face up to 20 years for the RICO charge and up to 10 years for the immigration conspiracy charge.
"The Hong Li Job Agency and the Tai Shan Employment Agency operated a 'take-out and delivery service' for restaurants across the region but they did not deliver food. Instead, they delivered people illegally present in the United States to greedy restaurant oweners and managers looking for cheap labor," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Houston.