BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — News 4 has confirmed that 25 employees at four local restaurants have been arrested by federal agents.
Investigations are underway at Agave, El Agave, Don Tequila and La Divina.
The restaurants are located in Buffalo, Kenmore and Cheektowaga, and are all under the same owner, 42-year-old Sergio Mucino.
He and two others, Jose Sanchez-Ocampo, 37, and Marguin Sanchez, 22, were charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens. Sanchez and Sanchez-Ocampo helped Mucino operate the restaurants.
If convicted, they could face 10 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.
Seven employees face criminal charges for illegally re-entering the United States, while 15 others face immigration charges.
News 4 saw U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security agents at the restaurants around 11:30 a.m.
According to federal officials, Mucino had employed multiple undocumented immigrants. They were paid in cash and worked among only one or two legal employees at every restaurant, according to officials.
Between July 2014 and the present day, officials say 38 Hispanic workers at the restaurant lived in nine apartments and two houses near the restaurants. The apartments were being rented and paid for by Mucino and Sanchez-Ocampo, according to prosecutors. Agents say they plan on seizing both houses.
Prosecutors say the employees worked six days a week for 14 hours a day.
The two-year-long investigation into the workers became more when some of them allegedly trespassed through Orchard Park in August.
Each restaurant, which grossed about $50,000 weekly, after paying employees, did not report earnings for federal or state taxes, officials say.
The workers allegedly took home between $500 and $800 in cash every week.
ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls released a statement just after Noon on Tuesday.
“Today, special agents and officers from ICE are conducting an enforcement action as part of an ongoing criminal investigation,” the statement read. “Because enforcement activities are currently underway, we cannot elaborate further at this time. Additional details may be available later today.”
During Tuesday morning’s operation, officers seized a 2008 Ford Edge and a 2016 Cadillac Escalade allegedly used to transport the workers as well as a 2009 Porsche Boxter which was purchased with the illegal restaurant proceeds.
The restaurants will be allowed to reopen if the owner wants to run legal operations.