Clarksville restaurant owners charged with harboring illegal aliens and tax fraud

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New China Buffet and Grill

New China Buffet and Grill (Source: Google StreetView)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A federal indictment has charged the owners of New China Buffet and Grill on Madison Street in Clarksville with conspiracy and tax fraud with the employment of undocumented workers from China and Guatemala.

According to court records, 29-year-olds Quanwei Shi and Chongqiang Chen of Clarksville, were indicted last month on conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens; harboring illegal aliens; money laundering; income tax fraud; and employment tax fraud.

Shi was arrested at his home in Clarksville on March 17 and Chen surrendered to U.S. Marshals earlier Thursday in New York.

The indictment states that between 2017 and April 2019, Shi and Chen conspired to conceal and harbor illegal aliens from China and Guatemala and profited from their employment at the restaurant. The undocumented workers were not required to complete any immigration forms and were paid under the table in cash. The indictment alleges the undocumented workers lived with Shi and Chen at their home, and were transported to and from the restaurant each day, assigned to work in the kitchen where they would not be able to interact with patrons.

The indictment further alleges that Shi evaded payroll taxes by failing to withhold $175,455 from the undocumented workers’ payments. The income and FICA taxes were supposed to go to the IRS but instead went toward commercial and personal use. In addition, Shi reportedly signed and caused false forms to be filed with the IRS that underreported gross receipts for tax years 2017 and 2018.

The indictment contains a forfeiture allegation against real estate property located at 403 D Street in Clarksville, vehicles, and bank accounts used in the conspiracy.

If convicted, Shi and Chen face up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

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