3:40 PM EDT Oct 15, 2012


The owner of a Thai restaurant in Vero Beach has been arrested after she paid an undercover federal agent $313,000 to help 28 illegal immigrants from Thailand get green cards, according to a federal criminal complaint obtained by WPBF 25 News.

Sarah Tipfun and three others -- Sataporn Panomwan Na Ayuttaya, Chatchai Nakornprai and Boonting Nuampaton -- are charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud.

According to the criminal complaint, a confidential informant told the Department of Homeland Security that Bangkok in Downtown restaurant owner Sarah Tipfun "employs and harbors illegal immigrants from Thailand, and has approached U.S. citizens about engaging in marriage fraud to obtain fraudulent immigration documents for these workers." The confidential informant also claimed that the workers had fraudulently obtained valid work visas, allowing them to work for Tipfun "with no intention of leaving the United States upon the required exit date."

The confidential informant introduced Tipfun to a special agent posing as a corrupt customs agent who could fraudulently obtain and sell green cards. According to the report, Tipfun agreed to pay $20,000 per green card and said she would introduce the agent to other restaurant owners who were willing to purchase fraudulent immigration documents for their workers.

From January to July, Tipfun arranged for 28 Thai nationals to meet with the agent in an attempt to buy illegal green cards, the complaint stated.

Tipfun said Panomwan Na Ayuttaya, a Gifford restaurant owner who was introduced to the agent by Tipfun, was charging the workers $2,000 on top of the price of the card, the complaint alleged.

Report: Vero Beach restaurant owner paid federal agent to get green cards for illegal workers | Treasure Coast News - WPBF Home