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Restaurants caught up in alien sting

ATLANTA -- Six Gwinnett residents, including three local restaurant owners, were either indicted or arrested this week on charges stemming from an alleged ring that funneled illegal aliens into the country and provided them with low-paying jobs at Asian restaurants.

Ai Lin Fu, 40, of Norcross was one of three reported employment agency owners indicted by a federal grand jury Friday. The three Chamblee-based agencies (the other two run by Tucker and Chamblee residents) allegedly advertised in Asian language newspapers and on the Internet and conspired to transport and provide jobs to illegal aliens.

Charging the undocumented aliens a commission and transportation fee, these organizations reportedly placed them primarily in Chinese restaurants -- like the Fuji Buffet in Lawrenceville and the Grand Buffet and Grill in Duluth.

In addition to Fu, Xiang Mei Ke, 32, of Duluth and Jing Xing Jiang, 42, of Lawrenceville were also indicted on conspiracy charges. They owned and operated the Fuji Buffet and another restaurant in Gainesville, where they allegedly used employees provided by the employment agencies, paying them in cash and often housing them in their own homes "to better monitor and shield them from detection," U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Patrick Crosby said.

Liang Feng Chen, 32, and Sau Ting Cheng, 41, owners and operators of Duluth's Grand Buffet and Grill, were arrested Thursday and charged with conspiracy to encourage and induce aliens to reside illegally in the United States.

Chunbiao Xu, 33, of Norcross, was also arrested and charged Thursday with conspiracy.

Such conspiracy charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

The ring spanned all across the Southeast and beyond, Crosby said, placing illegal aliens in restaurant jobs in South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI collaborated on the effort.

During Thursday's actions, Crosby said, 39 individuals were also detained by ICE for being in the U.S. without documentation. They are "expected to be deported."