Friday, October 18th, 2019
Celina China Wok couple pleads guilty
Couple admits to tampering with records
By Sydney Albert
CELINA - Two former Celina restaurateurs have been sentenced to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney's Office after each pleaded guilty to three counts of tampering with records, a third-degree felony.
Mei Yu Zheng, 46, and Kang Yong Chen, 47, entered their pleas on Thursday in Mercer County Common Pleas Court as part of a plea deal. Two counts of telecommunications fraud, which both Zheng and Chen had faced, were dismissed as part of the deal.
Zheng and Chen were sentenced to "fully comply with the separate negotiated settlement arising from this investigation with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Ohio." Details on that settlement were not available at press time.
If Zheng and Chen are found to violate the requirements of their sentence, they could each face up to three years in prison. Court documents also stated that if the defendants were not U.S. citizens, they could face deportation, exclusion from admission to the U.S. or denial of naturalization.
According to a complaint filed last year in Celina Municipal Court, Ohio Investigative Unit agents had been actively investigating Chen and Zheng since June 21, 2017, on allegations including ties to human trafficking and tampering with records. The investigation included "numerous days of surveillance" at the business the couple owned at 1401 E. Market St., Celina, and two residences linked to the couple. Documents also were collected through subpoenas, according to the complaint.
Adam Johnson of OIU's Cincinnati office told the newspaper in September 2018 that OIU agents had contacted China Wok Buffet employees, including those officers had suspected were victims of human trafficking.
Unit personnel had offered the workers help and resources as well as the services of an interpreter. Johnson said none of the employees had chosen to stay in custody for long. Because OIU agents didn't suspect them of any crime, they had no reason to hold them, and they were released.