Immigration Agents Raid Ohio Mexican Restaurants

POSTED: 5:04 pm EDT April 16, 2008

CLEVELAND -- Federal immigration authorities raided seven Mexican restaurants in four states Wednesday, arresting 56 people, including 11 accused of conspiring to harbor illegal immigrants.

The immigrants were primarily undocumented Mexicans forced to staff the restaurants for long hours with little pay to work off smuggling fees and rent, authorities said.

Ten individuals were arrested in Mentor and Willoughby in northeast Ohio, at Jalapeno Loco Mexican Restaurant and two houses, said Greg Palmore, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Two face charges of conspiring to harbor illegal immigrants and the rest face immigration violations.

The arrests began at 6 a.m. in Ohio, western New York, Bradford, Pa., and Wheeling and New Martinsville, W.Va., and were the result of a two-year investigation, Palmore said.

The restaurants' owner, Jorge Delarco of Depew, N.Y., is charged with conspiring to harbor illegal immigrants, which carries a five-year maximum jail sentence upon conviction. It was not immediately known if he had a lawyer.

"Employers who exploit illegal alien labor to reap greater profits for themselves can expect to pay a high price for their greed," said Julie L. Myers, assistant secretary of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Agents also raided Pilgrim's Pride poultry plants in five states Wednesday in a crackdown on an alleged scam to provide fake identification for illegal immigrant workers, authorities said.

More than 100 people were expected to be charged in the raids at the nation's largest chicken producer, Myers said.
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