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Restaurant caught in forced labor scheme

January 8, 2019


By Oregon US Attorney,

Oregon Restaurant Owner Sentenced to Prison in Connection with Immigration-Related Forced Labor Scheme. Defendant used debts, fraud, threats of financial and reputational harm, and other means to compel victims to work long hours for minimal pay at restaurants in Oregon and Washington

Paul Jumroon, also known as Veraphon Phatanakitjumroon, 55, formerly of Beaverton and Depoe Bay, Oregon, and a naturalized citizen originally from Thailand, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown to 37 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $131,000 in restitution to four victims and more than $120,000 to the IRS in taxes due. The defendant previously pleaded guilty to forced labor, visa fraud conspiracy, and filing false tax returns. The sentence was announced by Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams of the District of Oregon, Acting Special Agent in Charge Steve Palmer of the FBI’s Portland Field Office, and Acting Special Agent in Charge Troy Burrus of IRS Criminal Investigation’s Seattle Field Office.

According to documents filed in court, between 2011 and 2014, defendant Paul Jumroon and co-defendant Tanya Jumroon fraudulently obtained E-2 “investor” visas to bring Thai nationals into the United States to provide cheap labor at their restaurants in Lake Oswego, Oregon, and in Ridgefield, Washington. The defendants no longer own either restaurant. Paul Jumroon then lured four Thai chefs to the United States to work at the restaurants through the promise of a visa and false representations about their salaries and job responsibilities. Once the victims arrived, he confiscated their passports and documents and exploited and coerced their labor through debts, verbal abuse, and threats of financial and reputational harm, requiring them to work significant hours for minimal pay. Tanya Jumroon witnessed the mistreatment of the victims, and she benefited financially from their forced labor at the restaurants that she co-owned. Additionally, the defendants filed multiple false tax returns with the IRS by failing to report cash income earned from the restaurants between 2012 and 2015.

“Paul Jumroon’s violation of the law by obtaining fraudulent visas and exploiting vulnerable individuals for his own personal profit is disgraceful,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “The Department of Justice will continue to prosecute traffickers vigorously and secure justice for victims who have been mistreated and degraded by criminals.”

“Paul Jumroon has been brought to justice for preying on the hopes of vulnerable workers and using fear to compel work for little pay. He and his wife Tanya profited off of a degrading crime,” said U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams. “This case demonstrates our firm commitment to holding traffickers accountable and restoring the rights, freedom and dignity of victims.”

“Life in America is built on the promise of freedom and choice. When these victims came to this country seeking a better life, Paul Jumroon instead cooked up a scheme of false promises, forced labor and abuse,” said FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Steve Palmer. “Today’s sentence brings justice for them while also sending a strong message to those who think they can profit off others through coercion and intimidation.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Jumroon bullied and intimidated employees that trusted them in order to line their own pockets” said Troy Burrus, IRS Criminal Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge. “The defendants thought they were above the law. They abused multiple victims and stole money from the American taxpayers. Today’s sentence demonstrates the government’s determination to hold them accountable for their actions.”

Tanya Jumroon, also known as Thunyarax Phatanakit Jumroon, 59, of Beaverton, Oregon, will be sentenced for conspiring with Paul Jumroon and others to commit visa fraud, for making and subscribing a false tax return, and benefitting financially from forced labor. Tanya Jumroon pleaded guilty to these charges in June 2018.

The District of Oregon is one of six districts designated through a competitive, nationwide selection process as a Phase II Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam), through the interagency ACTeam Initiative of the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Labor. ACTeams focus on developing high-impact human trafficking investigations and prosecutions involving forced labor, international sex trafficking and sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion through interagency collaboration among federal prosecutors and federal investigative agencies.

This prosecution is the result of the joint investigation by the Oregon Foreign-Born Human Trafficking Taskforce, FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, IRS Criminal Investigation and Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, with assistance from the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and Portland Police Bureau. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Hannah Horsley, Scott Bradford and Steven Mygrant of the District of Oregon, and Lindsey Roberson of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.

  
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