Two owners of a Mexican restaurant chain in the Southwest were arrested last week and charged in federal court of knowingly hiring illegal immigrants as kitchen workers and committing tax fraud by paying them off-the-books.  Specifically, the charges range from the unlawful hiring and harboring of illegal aliens to conspiracy to defraud the IRS and tax evasion.   The company accountant was also arrested.

           According to the government, the company kept two sets of business accounting records to hide its activities.   According to the indictment, the owners of the company hired undocumented aliens to work in their restaurants’ kitchens and paid them “off-the-books” with no taxes state or federal taxes withheld or reported to the IRS or state taxing authorities.

          The government asserts that the company officials failed to pay over $400,000.00 in payroll taxes over a two year period.

           The two owners (who are father and son) are franchisees and own approximately twenty (20) restaurants in the Chuy’s Mesquite Broiler restaurant chain.  They were arrested following a lengthy investigation conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, the U.S. Department of Labor, Homeland Security Investigations agents and the Internal Revenue Service.  The government investigation began after a tip was received more than a year ago that the company was employing illegal workers.            

            If convicted, the owners potentially face 80+ years in prison and fines totaling over $10 million. The accountant for the restaurant chain faces a maximum prison sentence of 40 years and a $2 million fine.