Couple accused of harboring illegal aliens who worked at their restaurants

Red Bowl restaurant at 12553 Bartram Park Blvd in Jacksonville.
Red Bowl restaurant at 12553 Bartram Park Blvd in Jacksonville. (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A husband and wife have been arrested on federal charges of harboring aliens who are in the United States illegally.

Ji Qiu and his wife Gui Yang, who are both are both from China and lawful permanent residents of the U.S., own Fancy Sushi in Palm Coast and Red Bowl in Bartram Park in Jacksonville.

Starting in early 2019, federal agents saw vans carrying people who appeared to be employees, between the restaurants and houses located near the restaurants. Agents recorded video on multiple occasions, according to a complaint.

Federal agents said some of the workers were in the country legally but others were not. Agents identified several who were from Guatemala and in the country illegally.

Investigators searched two homes located near the restaurants and found makeshift bedrooms. At the Palm Coast house, they found no flooring in the house and some bedrooms didn’t have mattresses.

At a home in Bartram Springs, some rooms had mattresses, one had just fold-out cots with very few sheets and the home was made to accommodate a large group of people.

One of the employees told investigators he was never asked by the restaurant owners to show his “papers” when he was hired. The employee said he was paid $2,300 a month in cash for working as a sushi chef at Red Bowl six days a week for 11 hours a day.

He said he received food, housing and transportation and does not pay anything for rent or utilities.

The citizens of Guatemala in the country illegally, one of which is 19 years old, will wither be deported or released pending immigration proceedings.