New charges follow Vegas Buffet raid

Local

Three people have now been arrested,  two for the second time after a raid Friday at the Vegas Buffet on North Valley Mills Drive.

Zhi Lin, original charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, has now been charged with smuggling of persons.

Yali Yang originally charged with continuous trafficking of persons has now been additionally charged with smuggling of persons.

They had been arrested on Friday on their original charges and had both been released after posting $60,000 bond each, but were picked up on the new charges Monday afternoon.

As they were being arrested, deputies noticed a car drive by with the third person they had been seeking and arrested Peng Li on charges of engaging in organized criminal activity.

Zhi Lin  Yali Yang   Peng Li

Deputies also seized the white Mercedes he was driving.

Arrest affidavits tell the story of workers from Guatemala and China working in the restaurant for low pay while ” repaying” fees charged for bringing them into the country.

Those from China lived in the China Spring home of Lin and Yang and those from Guatemala in an apartment.

The original complaint came from a victim who had gone to the Texas Workforce Center wanting to file a report.

The original victim who talked with investigators said she lived in the apartment along with seven men from Guatemala, one of whom was a 16-year-old unaccompanied minor.

The affidavit quotes her as saying that she and the others from Guatemala are in the country illegally, and that she was smuggled through the desert before going to Houston.

She said that because the person bringing her in was a family member she had to pay $2500 but others had to pay about $15,000 to be brought in.

She said once in Houston there was a place to go for employment of illegal immigrants.

She said that businesses then reach out to the illegal business for people to work.

She also said that there were about 8 Chinese workers that had come from New York and that their cost to be brought in is $80,000 which has to be paid back in five years.

She said the Chinese worked the floor in the buffet and the Guatemalans worked in the kitchen.

She said they worked 13 hours a day, 6 days a week and are paid less than the Texas and Federal minimum wage rate, with the 16-year-old paid even less.

That money was used to pay their entry fees back to the trafficker and says they would threaten deportation if the money was not paid.

The affidavit states a white Mercedes registered to Peng Li was seen dropping off a woman with her luggage at the restaurant.

One of the affidavits mentioned the raid on Friday during which search warrants were served on the Vegas Buffet.

The affidavit states they found 17 employees working there and learned that employees wages were routinely held with some employees not being paid in months.

Of the employees present, according to the affidavit, the individuals from Guatemala were all in the country illegally, including a minor child.

Three of them had previously been deported.

The affidavit noted that the Guatemalans who were in the country illegally had all been staying in an apartment but that those who were staying with Lin and Yang in their home were all from China and were in the country legally.

The investigation into the buffet operation is on going.

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