June 20th, 2007 06:21 EST
Operator of Bay Area pizza parlors charged in ICE probe for harboring illegals
SAN FRANCISCO - The operator of two Bay Area restaurants made his initial appearance in federal court yesterday following his arrest by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as part of an ongoing investigation into charges that he hired illegal alien workers from Brazil and arranged for many of them to live at the businesses.
Glenio Silva, 38, a legal permanent resident from Brazil, was taken into custody late Friday at one of two restaurants he operates, Monterey Pizza, in San Francisco. As part of the enforcement action, ICE agents also executed criminal search and arrest warrants at a second establishment Silva runs in Hayward called the Pizza House.
According to investigators, Silva staffed the two restaurants with unauthorized workers from Brazil, paying them in cash to conceal their illegal employment and avoid paying payroll taxes. Silva is charged in a criminal complaint with harboring illegal aliens, a violation that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. At yesterday's hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard Zimmerman set a $75,000 unsecured bond for Silva and ordered him and his wife to surrender their passports.
In addition to the charges against Silva, four of the Brazilian national workers illegally employed by the restaurants are being charged with federal identity theft. Those workers allegedly assumed the names of U.S. citizens and used that information to obtain identification documents from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Two of those workers using the names were arrested during the operation. The remaining two workers charged with identity theft are still being sought.
"Last week's enforcement action is part of ICE's continued effort to investigate employers who facilitate the hiring of undocumented workers," said Charles DeMore, special agent in charge of the ICE office of investigations in San Francisco. "ICE will use every tool at its disposal to target businesses that exploit an illegal workforce to turn a profit."
In addition to the criminal arrests, ICE agents took four of the restaurants' unauthorized workers into custody on administrative immigration violations. Those workers were initially taken to ICE's office in San Francisco to be interviewed, photographed and fingerprinted. The individuals arrested in the case who are not being criminally charged will be placed in immigration removal proceedings.
Friday's operation is the culmination of a four-month investigation involving ICE and officers from the DMV Office of Investigations. DMV officers also assisted ICE in the execution of Friday's warrants.
George Valverde, Director of the Calif. State Dept. of Motor Vehicles said, "The security of our customers' identities and personal information is of paramount importance to the DMV. By working with our law enforcement partners, the Department helps apprehend and fully prosecute any persons who threaten that security."
ICE has dramatically enhanced its efforts to combat the unlawful employment of illegal aliens in the United States. During the first half of this fiscal year, the agency made more than 3,200 arrests in conjunction with worksite enforcement investigations. More than 500 of those arrests involved criminal charges.