MCAO: 4 people face charges in illegal-worker raid at restaurant chain
MCSO launches illegal-worker raid at two Uncle Sam's locations. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Sheriff's detectives said they spent months investigating allegations of ID theft. (Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -
The Maricopa County Attorney's Office said they plan to charge four people arrested by sheriff's deputies Wednesday, after executing search warrants at a Valley restaurant chain suspected of hiring illegal workers.
Maricopa County Attorney's Office spokesman Jerry Cobb said the four people will continue to be prosecuted for identity theft, forgery and aggravated identity theft.
Cobb said there was not enough evidence to charge five of the people arrested last week.
Cobb released the following statement on Tuesday.
"While the results of the initial investigation resulted in a successful number of arrests, our initial review of the evidence available at this time does not support filing charges against all of those arrested. If additional evidence becomes available, we will review any case not charged. This type of procedural result is not an infrequent occurrence following a charging review by prosecutors and should not be taken as any change in how the MCAO prosecutes cases of employment-related fraud. As I have repeatedly stated, we treat these cases just as we do any others - based on evidence."
Sheriff's detectives conducted a nine-month-long forgery and ID theft investigation into Uncle Sam's, a family-style restaurant.
Detectives said they suspected as many as 121 people hired to work there since October gained employment through false documentation.
A sheriff's office spokesman said Wednesday's operation targeted two of the restaurant's locations, one in Peoria at 18913 N. 83rd Ave. and the second in north Phoenix at 3217 E. Shea Blvd.
Detectives said they also searched the Scottsdale home of the restaurant owner.
The sheriff's office released the names of nine people initially arrested on suspected forgery and/or identity theft:
Jose Artemo Aguilar-Flores, 34
Fernando Abundez-Gonzalez, 35
Marcial Reyes-Gonzalez, 35
Jorge Nava-Lares, 34
Victor Moran-Vargas, 24
Emigdio Munoz-Gonzalez, 40
Rene Ramirez, 33
Valentin Villanueva-Fernandez, 32
Gerardo Zavala-Zavala, 26
A 10th person, Angela Marie Torres, 30, was arrested on an outstanding warrant for auto theft, according to an MCSO spokesman.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio said the probe began in October, after his office received a tip from a caller.
Sheriff's detectives searched both public and law enforcement databases and found 121 discrepancies, including names not matching the Social Security numbers provided, the spokesman said.
Arpaio said many of the victims are local residents, and several have agreed to aid in prosecuting the offenders, largely because of the havoc ID theft created in their lives.
Members of Puente Arizona and families of those arrested rallied outside the jail on the night of the arrests.
"These raids are inhumane and unjust," said Sandra Castro Solis, a Puenta Arizona organizer. "Arpaio's racial profiling was recently declared unconstitutional by a federal judge, so these raids must not be allowed to continue."
The group demanded the release of those arrested.
"We will raise our voices to make sure not one more victim of Arpaio is deported, and that those working to feed their families are not criminalized," Solis said.
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