PORTLAND, Maine — The co-owner of Mexican restaurants in Waterville, Westbrook and Biddeford pleaded not guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court to charges related to the employment of illegal aliens.
Guillermo Fuentes, 36, of Westbrook denied being part of a conspiracy to harbor undocumented aliens for profit, harboring undocumented aliens for profit, and aiding and abetting document fraud.
His brother, Hector Fuentes, 38, of Waterville pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the same charges.
Both were taken into custody in September but only Hector Fuentes was charged. The two men were indicted early this month by a federal grand jury in Portland.
A trial date has not been set.
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.
The Fuentes brothers 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 court documents. At least four illegal workers cooperated with authorities over the past several years and have continued to live and work in Maine.
T he brothers allegedly employed illegal aliens and housed them in leased property in Westbrook, Waterville and Biddeford. The men also helped workers obtain fake Social Security and permanent resident cards, the indictment said.
The pair also paid undocumented workers in cash or in tips, according to the indictment. When they issued paychecks to workers, the restaurant owners instructed workers to endorse their paychecks and return them. The checks then were deposited back into the restaurants’ checking accounts, the indictment alleged.
Both men remain free on $100,000 bail secured by $10,000 cash, according to court documents.
If convicted, each man faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.