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Restaurant Owner Gets 3 Years For Forced Labor, Visa Fraud

26 Dec

Law360 (December 19, 2018, 6:49 PM EST) — An Oregon federal judge on Tuesday said a former restaurant owner must spend more than three years in prison for orchestrating a scheme that lured Taiwanese workers to the U.S. under false pretenses and resulted in coerced labor, low pay and verbal abuse, all for his financial gain.

U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown sentenced 55-year old Paul Jumroon, who is also known as Veraphon Phatanakitjumroon, to 37 months in prison, and ordered him to pay more than $131,000 in restitution to four victims of the scheme. The sentencing follows a February guilty plea by Jumroon on charges of forced labor, visa fraud conspiracy and filing false tax returns.

In addition to the restitution, Jumroon will be required to hand over more than $120,000 to the Internal Revenue Service to cover unpaid taxes.

“Paul Jumroon’s violation of the law by obtaining fraudulent visas and exploiting vulnerable individuals for his own personal profit is disgraceful,” acting Assistant Attorney General for the District of Oregon Eric Dreiband said in a statement. “The Department of Justice will continue to prosecute traffickers vigorously and secure justice for victims who have been mistreated and degraded by criminals.”

According to prosecutors, Jumroon, along with his wife, Tanya, fraudulently obtained E-2 “investor” visas, which allowed the couple to bring Taiwanese workers to the U.S. to staff their two Oregon restaurants. E-2 visas are nonimmigrant visas that allow an individual to work in the U.S. based on an investment made in an enterprise by the holder.

According to criminal information, first filed in January, Jumroon falsely stated on visa applications that two of the prospective visa holders held ownership stakes in the couple’s restaurants, known as Somjai LLC, doing business as Curry in a Hurry, and Vilaivan LLC, doing business as Teriyaki Thai. Jumroon asserted that these two investors would pay the travel costs for four additional visa seekers, prosecutors said.

Once the workers were in the U.S., Jumroon confiscated their passports and other travel documents, and forced them to work at the restaurants, coercing their labor using verbal abuse and threats of violence and financial and reputational harm, prosecutors said.

In addition, the government alleged that a 2013 tax return for an S corporation controlled by Jumroon contained false and misleading information regarding the amount of sales and income achieved during that year.

Jumroon entered his guilty plea on Feb. 14. His wife Tanya, who also goes by the name of Thunyarax Phatanakit Jumroon, was charged in May in connection with the alleged scheme. Tanya pied guilty in June to financially benefiting from forced labor, visa fraud conspiracy, and filing a false federal income tax return and is waiting to be sentenced.

Counsel for the Jumroons did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

The government is represented by Hannah Horsley, Scott Bradford and Steven Mygrant of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon, and Lindsey Roberson of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.

The Jumroons are represented by Kristen L. Winemiller of Pacific Northwest Law LLP.

Paul Jumroon’s case is U.S. v. Jumroon, case number 3:18-cr-00036, and Tanya Jumroon’s case is U.S. v. Jumroon, case number 3: 18-cr-00255, both in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon.