Wednesday, May 22, 2013
By Rachel Ohm firstname.lastname@example.org
WATERVILLE — The owner of Cancun Mexican Restaurant, convicted of harboring undocumented aliens at his restaurant on Monday, plans to appeal the decision, according to his lawyer.
Staff file photo by David Leaming
Hector Fuentes, 39, of Waterville, and his brother, Guillermo Fuentes, 37, of Westbrook, were convicted of conspiracy to harbor undocumented aliens for profit as well as aiding and abetting document fraud, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Delahanty II.
Their trial in U.S. District Court in Portland concluded after eight days of testimony from numerous former employees, mostly undocumented aliens from Mexico and Guatemala, whom the brothers hired to work in their three restaurants, according to the release.
Hector Fuentes owns Cancun in Waterville as well as the Cancun Mexican Restaurant II in Biddeford. His brother owns the Fajita Grill in Westbrook.
The judge's definition of harboring is contrary to the law, said Lenny Sharon, defense attorney, who said the restaurants will remain open.
Hector Fuentes was seen at his Waterville restaurant Monday evening, but said he had no comment. The restaurant was open and people were seen inside, including some who said they support the restaurant and its place in the community.
"I know the owner. He is a nice guy and the food is good," said Tim Nye, 39, of Clinton.
Another customer, Javi Diaz, 28, of Clinton, said he visits the restaurant about once a week and will continue to do so.
"It's still the best place in town to go eat Mexican food," he said. "They've been here a few years and they give jobs to everyone. There is an opportunity for anyone to work there, not just immigrants."
The brothers were arrested in September 2011 after a series of investigations took place between 2006 and 2011, said Sharon. In total there were about 12 illegal immigrants found to be working at the three restaurants, he said.
Six restaurant workers from Cancun were detained by U.S. customs agents following the arrests, and members of the Waterville community came together to help keep it running. Volunteers washed dishes and waited tables, according to a Morning Sentinel article from Oct. 2, 2011.
"I think it's a pretty important place. They have good food and have been around for a while," said Nye on Monday night outside the restaurant.
The brothers were also convicted for helping undocumented alien employees obtain false residence cards, also known as "green cards," and social security cards at the three restaurants, according to the release.
The workers testified that they worked six and seven days a week, as long as 13 hours a day with one two-hour break, according to the release. Kitchen workers were paid between $350 and $500 a week in cash. Waiters were not paid, but were allowed to keep their tips, according to the release.
The brothers both face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count and forfeiture of the gross proceeds of the violations.
Sharon said sentencing will have to take place before the decision can be appealed. There is no date yet set for the sentencing, and it will probably be months before the appeal is heard, he said.
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368