NASHVILLE, Tenn. – March 3, 2021 – The majority owner of the New China Buffett & Grill (NCBG) in Clarksville, Tennessee, pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens; harboring illegal aliens; money laundering; tax evasion; and employment tax fraud, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Mary Jane Stewart for the Middle District of Tennessee.
Quanwei Shi, 31, of Clarksville, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Eli J. Richardson. Shi and NCBG co-owner Chongqiang Chen, 30, also of Clarksville, were arrested in April 2020, after a 14-count indictment charged them in a scheme to harbor undocumented workers and to defeat the tax laws of the United States.
Shi admits that between 2017 and April 2019, he conspired to conceal and harbor illegal aliens from China and Guatemala, profiting from their employment at NCBG. The undocumented workers were not required to complete any forms related to immigration status and were paid in cash, outside the regular payroll system. In addition, Shi admits that the undocumented workers lived with him at his residence on D Street in Clarksville; were transported to NCBG and back daily; and were assigned to work in the kitchen where they would not be able to interact with the patrons of the restaurant.
In addition to harboring the undocumented workers, Shi admits that for tax years 2017 through 2019, he underreported gross receipts on NCBG’s corporate tax returns and failed to collect, account for, and pay over employment taxes for an overall tax loss of $440,941.
The government also seeks to forfeit Shi’s house in Clarksville; two vehicles, the contents of two bank accounts, totaling $33,126.25; and $42,947 in cash.
Shi faces up to 45 years in prison when he is sentenced on July 16, 2021.
The case against Chongqiang Chen remains pending and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations; the IRS-Criminal Investigation; the Diplomatic Security Service of the U.S. Department of State; the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; the Tennessee Bureau of Workers Compensation; the Clarksville Police Department; and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sara Beth Myers and Robert Levine are prosecuting the case.