La Grange Chinese restaurant owner says 5 of her workers were taken by ICE after raid

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Jumbo Buffet in La Grange was closed for two days after she said five of her employees were taken by ICE in a federal raid.

Jenny Zhu, who owns the restaurant, said federal agents kicked the door in to her house on Jan. 9. She said agents ransacked it and then her business, and while they were in the house, the agents wouldn't let them do anything, even get a cup of water.

"They say, 'No don't move,' and they got a gun," Zhu said. "They are just very mean."

When asked if they are undocumented workers in the country illegally, she said, "I don't know, because they are not working here a long time. You know, we're busy, and I don't have time go through that one. I don't have time yet."

Amber Huff, who has been the restaurant manager for four years, said accusations about the restaurant aren't true. 

Those accusations pertain to a case involving several Asian buffet restaurants. Asian Buffet on Howard Drive in Shelbyville and Grand Buffet on East Brooke Court in Louisville were also raided by federal agents. 

Huff said she's never seen any workers at the restaurant against their will

"Everyone is happy working," she said. "If they don't like working, they leave."

Zhu said investigators overturned the restaurant booths and took computers, business paperwork and a few thousand dollars in cash. She added that there is a reason why workers were living with her.

"They don't have anywhere they can go, and then I got my basement," she said. "It's a walkout basement and a couple rooms where they're sleeping. They don't need to spend money for."

Zhu said having them live with her is her way of helping her employees who don't have much money. She said they work eight-hour days. Zhu said she purchased the restaurant years ago from a former owner who got in trouble for employing workers who were in the country illegally, and he now has no ties to the business. 

The Oldham County Health Department gave Jumbo Buffet an "A" and said it only came out after being contacted by state and federal agencies about the food that was left out during the raid, because employees were told to leave the building. The owner voluntarily threw it all out. Restaurant employees said they threw out chicken breasts, chopped spinach and egg rolls. The Health Department said it's been to the restaurant twice since the raid, and everything is fine.

Huff said the family is working together during this difficult time, and Zhu said many customers have been supportive and loyal customers have returned. 

"It's an ongoing investigation, and whatever happens and the outcome of it ... (I hope Zhu) grows and learns from that and knows you have to follow the rules," Huff said.

There's no word on when the federal investigation will be finished.

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