Thursday, August 5, 2010

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part LXIV): Restaurant owner pleads guilty to illegal immigrant charges

A front-page story in the July 28, 2010 issue of the Newton County Times features that headline and reports that a Mountain Home man, Sen Chen, 46, pleased guilty to "harboring/concealing aliens" in U.S. District Court in Harrison. The story indicates that the guilty plea stems from Chen's "employment, housing and transportation of illegal aliens as a source of labor for Chen's Gardens Restaurant." The plea was based on the arrest of ten "illegal aliens, eight of whom were Chinese nationals, and two Mexican nationals, traveling to and from work in a van owned by Chen." The aliens were "hired through an employment agency based in Chicago." In connection with the plea, Chen also "pleaded guilty to a criminal forfeiture action agreeing to the forfeiture of property to the United States valued at approximately $100,000, a residence valued at approximately $115,000, and a 2007 Ford passenger van. ... The properties were used in the commission of concealing or harboring illegal aliens." That seems like a steep forfeiture given that Chen's maximum possible punishment is 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

The really unusual thing about this story is that it appears in the Newton County Times at all. After all, the events occurred in Baxter County, population 38,386, which is two counties away. Typically, only the most truly local (Newton County) of news makes it into the weekly Times, which is typically just eight pages long. I expect that the paper's editors could hardly resist running a story that is so sensational, at least by Newton County standards.

In other news:
  • The Jasper City Hall is getting $15,000 in the form of a USDA Rural Development Grant to help install new windows and doors at the City Hall Building and convert a storage garage used by the fire department into a conference room.
  • Heat illness struck two Youth Conservation Corp Workers in the Buffalo National River area.
  • Local resident Ewell Henderson turns 100!

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