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Search warrants reveal more allegations during raids at Chinese restaurants

Kent County, August 18, 2005, 8:09 a.m.) Hefty and scathing search warrants outline what police were looking for and what they found during recent raids at some Chinese restaurants around the state, including West Michigan. Authorities conducted raids of six restaurants from Grand Rapids to Newaygo to Oakland County.

24 Hour News 8 went knocking on doors looking for the truth in June. On Wednesday, a tip led to a handful of warrants. Those warrants provide a glimpse into the investigation of alleged tax fraud, illegal immigration, and even the owners dabbling in the immigrant trade.

Michigan State Police were aided in their investigation by expert Richard Harris from the Michigan Department of Treasury. Harris says that, in his experience, these Chinese restaurants often employ illegal immigrants who are hired in "hiring halls" in New York, Chicago, and other major cities.

Harris also says that, based on his experience, illegal Asian employees often owe a considerable amount of money to an organized crime group in China, which provides their passage to the United States, and that the employees will pay this debt using bank and postal money orders.

Large numbers of these employees, Harris points out, will live together in houses owned by the business owner. Police searched the home of Dong Lin and Li Yang and at least four homes where employees stayed. At 1057 12th Street in Grand Rapids, warrants say 21 people lived there, 11 with registered drivers licenses and 10 with ID cards. That house is owned by buffet owner Dong Lin.

Authorities searched, and in some cases, seized two safety deposit boxes; cars, including a BMW, Lexus, Mercedes Benz; and more than a dozen vehicles, including many large transport vans.

Authorities were tipped off about the possible tax evasion and immigration issues in February and started the massive investigation. Much of the initial investigation was based on covert surveillance, with detectives casing the restaurants.

At one location, investigators would see nine people working during one part of the day, even though the restaurant claimed it only had four workers in total. Calculations also show that one location should generate a state withholding tax of more than $500. They reported $60 in withholding tax.

In 2001, the Dong Lin and Li Yang claimed $263,000 in earnings. In 2004, they claimed only $65,000. Three months ago, though, the duo was able to buy a restaurant on Alpine. Its purchase price was $1.9 million. Plus, there are the money and wire transfers to the Bank of China and banks in Hong Kong. In 1995, Lin deposited $18,000 in cash into the Bank of China.

24 Hour News 8 obtained copies of the warrants late Wednesday afternoon and was not able to reach investigators for comment; however, there is much more to this story, like the couple's $52,000 boat that was purchased with cash and money orders. 24 Hour News 8 will have more on this investigation as more details become available.