LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A Big Spring restaurateur who illegally employed undocumented immigrants was sentenced today to 15 months in federal prison and ordered to pay a $100,000 fine, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox.
In March, Voum Chhuon, 45, owner of the Texas Cajun restaurant in Big Spring, Texas, pleaded guilty to harboring illegal aliens and unlawful employment of illegal aliens, both felonies. He was sentenced today before U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix.
According to court documents, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) received a tip from the Howard County Sherriff’s Office that Mr. Chhuon was illegally employing undocumented workers at the Texas Cajun restaurant. Agents obtained search warrants for Mr. Chuuon’s residence and the restaurant, where two illegal aliens were present.
During an interview conducted by law enforcement, Mr. Chhuon admitted that all his kitchen staff were undocumented workers, and that he had been unlawfully employing illegal aliens since he purchased the restaurant. To disguise the employment of the unauthorized workers, Mr. Chhuon paid the kitchen staff in cash and other restaurant staff by paycheck.
In furtherance of the scheme, once Mr. Chhuon unlawfully hired the illegal aliens, he would then provide them with room and board at a Big Spring residence. Mr. Chhuon would also arrange transportation to and from the Texas Cajun restaurant for the illegal aliens living at the residence.
From March 2015 until his arrest, Mr. Chhuon’s restaurant made a total revenue of $2,985,631 with a monthly average of approximately $82,000 by operating with illegal labor. HSI forensic accountants determined that Mr. Chhuon transferred approximately $140,000 from his business account to pay for personal expenses including to pay off a mortgage.
This investigation was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations with assistance provided by the Big Spring Police Department and the Howard County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Rancourt prosecuted this case.