Owner of Mexican restaurants pleads not guilty to employing aliens

Posted April 25, 2012, at 5:53 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — One of two brothers who own Mexican restaurants in central and southern Maine was arraigned Wednesday in U.S. District Court on charges related to the employment of illegal aliens.

Hector Fuentes, 37, of Waterville pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to harbor undocumented aliens for profit, aiding and abetting document fraud, and three counts of harboring undocumented aliens for profit.

Hector Fuentes, who was indicted earlier this month by a federal grand jury, and Guillermo Fuentes, 35, of Westbrook were arrested on Sept. 21 when federal agents raided their restaurants and the houses where workers live.

Hector Fuentes remains free on $100,000 bail secured by $10,000 cash, according to court documents.

If Guillermo Fuentes has been indicted by a federal grand jury, that indictment has not been made public.

The brothers own the Fajita Grill Mexican Restaurant in Westbrook, the Cancun Mexican Restaurant in Waterville, and the Cancun Mexican Restaurant II in Biddeford. The restaurants remain open, according to previously published reports.

If convicted, Hector Fuentes faces up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 on each charges.

The restaurant owners came to the attention of authorities in April 2008 after Westbrook police stopped several Hispanic men who worked at the Fajita Grill Mexican Restaurant in Westbrook but had no U.S. identification documents, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Portland. At least four illegal workers cooperated with authorities over the past several years and have continued to live and work in Maine.

Eight of the brothers’ workers, who are citizens of Mexico and Guatemala, also were arrested and charged with possessing fake documents. Three more restaurant workers, who have not been charged with crimes, reportedly were detained for alleged immigration violations.

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