Chinese restaurant owner pleads not guilty to human trafficking - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Chinese restaurant owner pleads not guilty to human trafficking charges

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Locked in a basement, kept against their will, and forced to work long shifts for little or no pay. Police say that's what a Chinese restaurant owner did to his employees.

Police say Golden Palace Buffet Owner Ming Chen illegally used men and women to staff his Outer Loop restaurant. According to the arrest report, the victims were working 12-hour shifts, six days a week with "little or no breaks, and limited freedoms."

A year-long investigation revealed allegations that Chen, 42, kept the employees in the basement of his home and used a van with wooden benches to take them to and from the restaurant.

Chen is free on a $50,000 full cash bond charged with human trafficking. When WDRB asked him questions, he said he didn't speak English.
 
Matt Clark is the Director of the Redlight Project. He said, "I hope that if he's convicted, he's prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law because human trafficking is a crime against humanity." The group documents the stories of human trafficking victims in order to provide authorities with information to arrest suspects.

Clark said, "Human trafficking is the fastest growing illegal industry in the world today and we know the Justice Dept. estimates there are 100,000 victims nationwide."
 
Clark says in Louisville, his group is working with dozens of potential victims some involved not only in labor trafficking, but sex trafficking.

Police say Chen kept the employees in approximately 10 small rooms in the basement of his home.

Chen's wife Xiang Zhi Jiang is also charged with human trafficking but wasn't arrested. She was instead allowed to stay with her children.

A family member denies the human trafficking charges and says the alleged victims are just long-time employees from New York.

The Redlight Project is hoping its new software slated to be rolled out in a week will help raise awareness.

"We are going to be equipping small business owners with software they can have where they can submit anonymous reports about anything in their area because we want to empower small business owners to be community leaders through our human trafficking software," Clark said.

Chen is expected back in court next month and is requesting an interpreter.

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