Ex-wife admits role in forced-labor scheme
The ex-wife of a former restaurant owner pleaded guilty Thursday for her role in a scheme that involved obtaining fraudulent visas for four workers from outside the United States and forcing them to provide cheap labor at the Curry in a Hurry restaurant in Lake Oswego and Teriyaki Thai in Ridgefield, Wash.
Tanya Jumroon, also known as Thunyarax Phatanakit Jumroon, 59, of Beaverton, waived indictment by a federal grand jury and instead entered the guilty plea. She faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for financially benefitting from forced labor, five years in prison for visa fraud conspiracy and three years in prison for filing a false tax return.
Her sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 24 before U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown.
Jumroon and her ex-husband Paul Jumroon, who officials say is also known as Veraphon Phatanakitjumroon, are both naturalized citizens from Thailand. According to the defendant's plea agreement, admissions in court and other court documents, they used the fraudulently obtained E-2 visas between 2011 and 2014 to entice four victims to come to the United States from Thailand.
After the victims arrived, the Jumroons used inflated travel expenses, debt manipulation, threats of deportation, serious financial and reputational harm, verbal abuse and control over identification documents to compel them to work 12 hours a day, six to seven days a week, for minimal pay.
Curry in a Hurry and Teriyaki Thai were owned and operated by the Jumroons at the time, but both restaurants were later sold and have been under new ownership for several years.
Tanya Jumroon witnessed her then-husband's mistreatment of two of the victims and benefitted financially from the victims' forced labor at the restaurants, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Thursday. As part of her guilty plea, she agreed to pay $131,391.95 in restitution.
Tanya Jumroon also admitted to filing multiple false tax returns with the IRS by failing to report cash income earned from the restaurants between 2012 and 2015; she agreed to pay $120,384 to the IRS as part of the plea agreement announced Thursday.
Paul Jumroon pleaded guilty on Feb. 14 to forced labor, visa fraud conspiracy and filing a false federal income tax return. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 18, also before Brown.
"Human trafficking schemes are seldom carried out by a single person. Tanya Jumroon profited off of her then-husband's actions while turning a blind eye," said Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon. "In too many of these cases, we later learn that someone close by could have taken action to stop the abuse and intimidation of others and did not. I implore all Oregonians to remain vigilant and watch for the signs of human trafficking in their communities. Your attention and perceptiveness could help a victim in need."
Officials said the case was a joint investigation by the FBI, IRS, Homeland Security Investigations and the Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service, along with the Portland Police Bureau and the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division.
"These victims believed the Jumroons were offering them a chance at a better life. When they arrived in the U.S., however, they faced false promises, forced labor and abuse," said Renn Cannon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. "Victims such as these often live in the shadows and find it difficult to get the help they need. We are grateful for the community members who were able to bring this case to our attention so we could work together to bring an end to the physical, psychological and financial exploitation."