Federal prosecutors have charged 19 restaurant owners and managers – most living in Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma – accusing them of a racketeering scheme to hire and employ immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
The investigation was launched following a Kansas Department of Labor inquiry into employment practices at a Mexican restaurant in Overland Park.
The charges against the defendants range from fraud and conspiracy to money laundering and illegal use of social security numbers.
Federal Homeland Security agents carried out search warrants at 10 locations in Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma last week.
The case involves 45 Mexican restaurants across several states that received employment services from Specialty Foods Distribution, based in Joplin, Missouri, and another affiliate.
Prosecutors allege that over the course of nearly 20 years, the company helped staff the restaurants with people not eligible to work in the U.S.