Police raid restaurant in Poplar Bluff - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Police raid restaurant in Poplar Bluff

By Tyler Profilet - bio | email

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) - Poplar Bluff Police and federal investigators raided a Poplar Bluff restaurant Wednesday morning.

Multiple employees of China Buffet and Mongolian Grill were taken to the immigration trailer outside the Poplar Bluff Police Department.

Eleven people were escorted into the police department in handcuffs.

Authorities wouldn't say how many people they are questioning, but said they are detained under the suspicion they are illegal immigrants.

Poplar Bluff Police Chief Danny Whiteley says he was surprised when he received a letter saying there were illegal immigrants working at the restaurant.

"I don't think I really suspected it. I'm kind of like the general public I think in southeast Missouri, in the heartland, you don't really think of immigration problems like you hear about in Arizona or Texas," he said. "But after we got involved in this investigation, it's bigger than what I thought."

Whiteley says any charges against the suspected illegal aliens or the restaurant owners will come from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also referred to as ICE.

But Whiteley says just because ICE will be handling the charges and leading the investigation, a lot of local police resources were still used on this case over the past year.

"Anytime you have an investigation that goes that length of time, there's a lot of manpower and expenses put into that with the overtime that's involved to do these investigations," he said.

ICE officers in Chicago spoke to Heartland News on the phone and said that federal investigators have search warrants for the restaurant and the home where they lived on Velma Street.

However, they wouldn't say how many people were detained in today's raid or what charges they may face.

But, they did tell me being an illegal immigrant is a civil offense, not criminal, so possible hearings would be held in immigration court, not criminal court.

The restaurant will be closed for the rest of the day.

Copyright 2010 KFVS. All rights reserved.

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