A Big Spring restauranteur has pleaded guilty to employing undocumented immigrants, according to U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox.
Voum Chhuon, 45, owner of Texas Cajun in Big Spring, Texas, pleaded guilty to harboring illegal aliens and unlawful employment of illegal aliens before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Parker on March 19.
According to plea papers, Chhuon admits he employed illegal labor for his personal financial gain.
Department of Homeland Security (HSI) received a tip from the Howard County Sherriff’s Office that Chhuon was employing illegal aliens at the Texas Cajun. After investigation, HSI agents learned that Chhuon that was paying individuals in his kitchen in cash while the waiters were paid by paycheck.
Officers with the Big Spring Police Department and the Howard County Sherriff’s Office conducted a traffic stop of two Texas Cajun cooks, Simon Hernandez-Bautitsta and Justino Antonio-Martinez. ICE officers determined that Antonio-Martinez and Hernandez-Bautitsta were in the United States illegally and subject for removal.
During interviews with Antonio-Martinez and Hernandez-Bautitsta, they stated that Chhuon knew they were in the United States illegally and not authorized to work. Both men were paid in cash once per week and lived with Chhuon in his residence in Big Spring.
While owning the Texas Cajun, Chhuon unlawfully hired Sergio Martinez-Martinez, Julio Esteban Perez-Florez, Jose Manuel Castillo-Hernandez, Sergio Ramiro Avila-Perez, Simon Hernandez Bautitsta, Justino Antonio Martinez, Lazaro Zepeda-Rocha, and Primitivo Hernandez-Amezquita without filling out any paperwork or requesting any documentation as to legality of residence in the United States or to work.
Once unlawfully hired, Chhuon would provide the illegal aliens room and board at his Big Spring residence and transportation to the Texas Cajun.
From March 2015 until his arrest, Chhuon made a total revenue of $2,985,631 for a monthly average of approximately $82,000 by operating the restaurant with illegal labor. HSI forensic accountants determined Chhuon transferred $137,801 from his Texas Cajun business account to pay off a personal mortgage on a residence located in Pearland, Texas.
Chhuon is facing up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Rancourt is prosecuting the case.