The owners and managers of a chain of Mexican restaurants in Stark and Summit counties have been charged with hiring some three dozen undocumented workers and then cheating them. For Ohio Public Radio, WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on a case that could end with the forfeiture of more than $16 million the restaurants made.
The 23-count indictment says restaurant owners Miguel and Monica Castro, and four managers hired workers they knew were in the United States illegally to work at their Mariachi Locos and Cocos restaurants.
They’re accused of helping the workers get fraudulent documents, leasing housing for them and paying them under the table -- and under minimum wage.
Mike Tobin of the U.S. attorneys office says some were paid nothing other than tips, and the offer of housing and other help was not benevolent.
“I think the real tragedy of this case, as laid out in the indictment, is that you have people who are taking advantage of these workers’ immigration status," Tobin said. "They know these workers can’t go to the authorities and complain about being underpaid or overworked or not getting overtime … because they had a workforce that they knew they could control.”
Tobin says abuse began in 2002 and continued until the restaurants were searched last year. Some of the workers have been deported, others are in the process.
When contacted at one of the restaurants, Monica Castro declined to comment.