Indiana News

Evansville restaurant owner put on probation for hiring undocumented workers

FILE - An exterior sign is photographed outside the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice building in Washington on May 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — An Evansville restaurant owner will spend two years on probation after pleading guilty to unlawfully employing undocumented workers, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Kent Dam, 55, of Evansville, will pay $15,000 in addition to his probation time.

According to court documents, in June 2020, Homeland Security investigators began looking into Dam and his restaurant, Gracie’s Chinese Cuisine. The investigation began as a part of an ongoing multistate investigation into the smuggling, transporting, harboring and employment of undocumented workers.

Agents were told that a human smuggler was driving undocumented workers from a different state to Gracie’s Chinese Cuisine and to homes owned by Dam on West Wortman Road in Evansville.

Dam and his wife personally paid the smuggler for delivering workers to the home.

During the investigation, surveillance showed Dam regularly driving from his home to the home on West Wortman Road and picking up four to six workers, and, at the end of the day, he brought them back to the home.

On Oct. 21, 2020, Dam was stopped while driving his vehicle for a traffic violation. He was driving five people at the time. According to the Department of Justice, the five people were not “lawfully present in the United States.”

All of the passengers worked in the kitchen of the restaurant and lived at the West Wortman Road house. They told officers they were paid monthly by Dam through checks or an envelopes of cash.

The workers told investigators that Dam did not ask them to complete the standard employment forms for citizenship and taxes. Two of the workers said they were brought to the restaurant by a smuggler.