Monday, May 9, 2011

Man wanted ICE to target competitors, is charged with harboring illegal workers (Washington Examiner)

Man wanted ICE to target competitors, is charged with harboring illegal workers
By: Emily Babay 05/08/11 8:05 PM
Examiner Staff Writer | Follow her: @emilybabay

A Fairfax County businessman approached U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents late last year, telling the agents that some of his competitors were employing illegal aliens in hopes that ICE would target those businesses.

But in the course of that investigation, court papers say, ICE determined that Taesan Won was also harboring illegal workers. He could now face up to 10 years behind bars.

In Fairfax, Won operated a "doumi" business called Honey, which provided female companions to patrons at karaoke clubs, bars and other businesses, according to a criminal complaint.

The complaint says the South Korean national knowingly employed women who didn't have authorization to work in the United States at his business. Most had entered the country on student or tourist visas, the complaint says.

Won, 37, has been charged in federal court in Alexandria with harboring an illegal alien for commercial advantage and financial gain.

He is in custody. Won didn't contest his detention at a hearing Friday, according to his attorney, Kenneth Troccoli. A federal public defender, Troccoli declined to comment further on the case.

Won told an ICE informant in November that he wanted to "provide information" about several doumi businesses in the Annandale area. He "hoped that this information would spur ICE to pursue Won's competitors," the complaint says.

ICE agents interviewed Won the next month. He told them that eight or nine doumi businesses were operating in Annandale, including one run by the friend who had introduced him to the industry. At his friend's company, Won overhead men saying some of the female workers didn't have visas or proper papers, according to the complaint. Won asked for a U.S. alien registration card in exchange for the information he gave.

As investigators probed the doumi businesses, an informant told ICE officials that she knew a "number of women who previously worked for Won and who were unauthorized to work in the United States."

Officials uncovered workers who came to the country on student and tourist visas, or through a visa waiver program, and didn't have permission to work here, the complaint says. Won knew the workers didn't have the proper credentials and didn't have them fill out Department of Homeland Security work eligibility forms, which are required, prosecutors say.

By operating a business, Won violated the terms of his tourist visa, the complaint says. He entered the country in September 2010.

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