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Restaurant owners arrested in human trafficking investigation out of jail 

UPDATE @ 3 p.m. (Sept. 5):

Kang Yong Chen, 46, and his wife, Mei Yu Zheng, 45, owners of China Wok Buffet in Celina, had their records tampering cases bound over to Mercer County Common Pleas Court.

They appeared Friday in Celina Municipal Court, where they waived their preliminary hearings. Also Friday, they posted bond and were released from Mercer County Jail.

Chen and Zheng were arrested Aug. 29 in connection to a human trafficking investigation, according to an affidavit filed by an agent with the Ohio Investigative Unit.

China Wok Buffet, 1401 E. Market St., is back open.

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UPDATE @ 3:45 p.m. (Aug. 31):

Additional charges may be filed in a human trafficking investigation connected to a couple who own a Celina restaurant, according to a representative from the Ohio Investigative Unit.

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Kang Yong Chen, 46, and Mei Yu Zheng, 45, were arrested on records tampering charges Wednesday in connection with human trafficking.

Multiple search warrants were executed in the case, and the Ohio Investigative Unit is reportedly still going through the information.

INITIAL REPORT:

A couple who owns China Wok Buffet in Celina are behind bars on records tampering charges in connection to a human trafficking investigation.

Kang Yong Chen, 46, and his wife, Mei Yu Zheng, 45, were arrested Wednesday and booked into the Mercer County Jail on suspicion of two felony counts of tampering with records. Chen is held without bond, and Zheng must post 10 percent of $500,000 to be released, online jail records show.

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The case against the couple all began with a human trafficking complaint made by Vandalia police in July 2017.

According to an affidavit filed in Celina Municipal Court, Vandalia police saw groups of people of Asian or Middle Eastern descent dropped off at businesses in Vandalia, and that it had been going on for years.

The businesses implicated were not identified, but agents of the Ohio Investigative Unit conducted surveillance in Vandalia. This led agents to Chen and Zheng.

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“Since June 21, 2017, agents have been actively investigating Kang Yong Chen and Mei Yu Zheng for allegations including human trafficking and tampering with records. This investigation included numerous days of surveillance on the business and the two residences, and gathering documents through subpoenas,” the affidavit read.

The investigation allegedly found that there were people working for the restaurant who were not on the payroll.

In payroll records filed by the business, the 2017 third quarter tax report showed eight employees total, including Chen, Zheng and their daughter. An investigator reported that on June 27, 2017, there were four males and three females working at the restaurant in addition to Chen and Zheng, the affidavit stated.

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The 2018 second quarterly tax report included the names and wages paid for eight employees. Four were Chen, Zheng and their two children.

“Surveillance conducted during the second quarter of 2018 revealed that six additional workers were employed at the restaurant. ... A review of the business bank records has also revealed that only Kang Yong Chen and Mei Yu Zheng were receiving checks that could be considered payroll during the second quarter of 2018,” the affidavit stated.

China Wok Buffet, 1401 E. Market St., remained closed Thursday evening.

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