Federal authorities said they found hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and bank accounts while investigating immigration violations at Chinese restaurants in Vinton and Toledo.
Now they are seeking forfeiture of the money, which comes to $759,485, as well as two vehicles and 61 pieces of jewelry from Chan Duong and his wife, who operated the Peony Restaurants.
No criminal charges have been filed against Duong, but an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent said in court records there isprobable cause to believe the couple harbored illegal aliens.
The U.S. Attorneys Office for the District of Northern Iowa filed an action in connection with the funds Thursday at the federal courthouse Cedar Rapids.
The largest chunk of the claim is $309,100 in cash that was discovered in a safety-deposit box at U.S. Bank in Vinton. The box was in Duong's name, records state.
Another $88,728 in cash was found when ICE agents executed a search warrant at Duong's Vinton home.
According to court records, some of the money was hidden in the basement, and Duong told agents the money was from "tips" he and his wife earned from the restaurants over the past 12 years.
Other caches of money include:
$2,139 from the Peony Chinese Restaurant in Toledo
$35,733 from a bank account
$12,163 from two bank accounts
$10,000 from a safety-deposit box
$22,350 from a safety-deposit box
$135,200 from a safety-deposit box
$5,813 from Duong's wife's purse
$24,053 from a bank account
$61,309 from a bank account
$52,898 from a bank account
Also sought in the claim is a 2009 Toyota Camry, a 2001 Tundra pickup truck, five pieces of jewelry from their home and 51 pieces of jewelry from two safety-deposit boxes.
The government already has filed court actions against the couple's house in Vinton as well as homes in Plainfield, Ill., and Orlando, Fla.
Immigration agents raided the restaurants in Vinton and Toledo and detained four workers from Mexico and China on immigration violations.
Records said the restaurants used an employment agency in Chicago to find workers, and agency fees were paid with their first wages.
Some workers were paid in cash and lived in an apartment above the Vinton restaurant, records allege.
Two workers told investigator they were hired without presenting any identification or immigration documents, records state.