Owner of San Antonio eatery pleads guilty to hiring illegal workers

By Guillermo Contreras
Published 06:30 p.m., Monday, July 25, 2011

In a rare workplace enforcement case, the owner of a popular San Antonio eatery pleaded guilty Monday to charges that the restaurant hired illegal workers.

Hossein Bagheri, 50, entered guilty pleas in federal court on behalf of himself and Salsalito Cantina Inc. He faces a maximum of five years in prison.

Bagheri is the owner of Salsalito, which has two Mexican food restaurant locations in San Antonio that were raided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in May 2009. The agency deported 20 workers.

He admitted he was aware that a number of employees were working without legal authorization, according to his plea deal.

Lawyer Michael Gross, who represents Bagheri and Salsalito, said the restaurant wasn't ordered to shut its doors as part of the deal and said Bagheri might qualify for probation. But as convicted felons, they might have trouble maintaining a state license to sell alcoholic drinks, prosecutors noted.

Two kitchen managers, Angel Sotelo, 44, and Carlos Cossio Mendoza, whose age was unavailable, pleaded guilty to recruiting illegal workers and cooperated with agents, leading to Bagheri's guilty plea. Awaiting trial are general manager Humberto Gonzalez, 40, and human resources manager Sylvia Luna, 33, although court records show she was to plead guilty Thursday.

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