The owners of El Charro Mexican Restaurant have been charged in federal court with 64 criminal complaints, including racketeering and immigration crimes, according to documents filed with the cases.
Homeland Security Investigations agents, with the assistance of numerous local, states, and federal agencies, executed a series of search warrants today at 10 locations in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. Federal agents have so far arrested 14 of the 19 defendants.
The federal indictment alleges that 17 of the 19 co-defendants were part of an organized criminal enterprise from July 2003 to Aug. 10, 2021, that smuggled Mexican, Guatemalan, and El Salvadoran nationals who were not authorized to live or work in the United States. Conspirators allegedly harbored them in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. The defendants allegedly created a network of restaurants operating as LLCs in states throughout the Midwest. The main owner and his co-conspirators allegedly supplied these restaurants with undocumented workers to staff positions at the restaurants. According to the indictment, conspirators did not pay the appropriate state and federal payroll taxes, overtime wages, and worker’s compensation for the unauthorized employees.
In addition to smuggling and harboring undocumented workers, the indictment alleges the racketeering activity included fraud (in connection with identification documents), fraud and misuse of visas and other documents, and money laundering. Members and associates of the criminal enterprise are accused of shielding unauthorized employees from detection by immigration authorities by eliminating records of their employment, paying them by personal check and in cash, failing to maintain complete and accurate Forms I-9 and required wage and hour reports for these employees, assisting them with the acquisition of false identification documents (such as Social Security numbers and alien resident documents), and making false statements to immigration authorities and law enforcement officials
According to the federal indictment, the investigation began when the Kansas Department of Labor contacted Homeland Security Investigations regarding allegations that unauthorized aliens were employed at the Bravos Mexican Grill in Overland Park. When HSI announced a Form I-9 inspection on July 16, 2018, agents discovered that 14 of the 17 Bravos employees whose I-9 forms had been inspected were ineligible to work. During another inspection of Bravos on Feb. 28, 2019, agents identified eight unauthorized aliens working there. Five of those employees had been identified previously as ineligible to work.
On June 7, 2019, HSI inspected 10 restaurants in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Those restaurants operated under LLCs, doing business as El Charro (Claremore, Butler and Springfield), Playa Azul (Great Bend, Pratt, Kan., and Wichita, Kan.), Iguana Azul (Nevada, Mo.), Los Sauces (Nevada, Mo.), and La Paloma (Springfield). All of them were found to have employed unauthorized workers. Approximately 68 percent of the employees audited at the restaurants were not authorized to work in the United States.
The indictment also contains forfeiture allegations against several defendants, which would require them to forfeit to the government the funds contained in several bank accounts as well as real estate located in Great Bend, Pittsburg, and Augusta in Kansas; Butler, Joplin, and West Plains in Missouri; and Claremore, Okmulgee, Muskogee, Enid, and Tahlequah in Oklahoma.