An Evansville restaurant owner has been sentenced for his involvement in a human smuggling scheme and using illegal immigrants at the eatery. The U.S. Department of Justice says Kent Dam was sentenced to time served after pleading guilty to transporting and harboring undocumented workers and money laundering.
The Justice Department says Gracie’s Chinese Cuisine in Evansville, which is operated by Dam and his wife, also pleaded guilty to unlawful employment of undocumented workers, and received two years’ probation and a $15,000 fine.
The Justice Department says Homeland Security Investigations, the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, began examining Dam in June 2020 as part of a multistate inquiry smuggling, transporting, harboring and employing of undocumented workers.
The federal government says Dam and his wife paid a smuggler to deliver the undocumented workers to Evansville where Dam would use them at his restaurant. The Justice Department says Dam would transport the workers to a residence he owned at the end of the day.
The DOJ says in October 2020, Dam was stopped for a traffic violation. Investigators say the five passengers were all in the U.S. illegally. They were from El Salvador, Indonesia, Mexico and two from Guatemala.
“The defendant paid for smuggled, undocumented workers to exploit in furtherance of his own greed,” said Zachary Myers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. “This prosecution and sentence demonstrate that the Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners will work tirelessly to ensure that those who unlawfully exploit trafficked persons are held accountable.”
According to the Justice Department, the workers said Dam did not ask them to complete the standard employment forms regarding citizenship and taxes. Most of the undocumented workers were paid in cash or check.