A Really Raw Deal

Talk about a raw deal! According to the Colorado Attorney General's Office, the former owners of Osaka Sushi have been charged with human trafficking -- because they allegedly made two South Korean immigrants work there for no pay, threatening them with deportation if they complained.

Here's the press release from the AG:

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, today announced the arrests of Young Jo Kwon (DOB 11/07/1964) and his wife, Jessie Kwon (DOB 12/05/1966), in connection with charges of indentured servitude at their Denver sushi restaurant. The couple was charged with five counts of theft and forgery.

The Kwons, who formerly owned and operated Denver's Osaka Sushi, are accused of forcing two South Korean immigrant employees to work without pay. The Kwons allegedly threatened employees Jaihee Jo Hong and Jong Chul Choi with the revocation of their "sponsorship," which the Kwons claimed would result in the subsequent deportation of the employees' families. Jaihee Jo informed the FBI that Young Jo Kwon claimed ties to the Korean mafia, and Kwon allegedly told Choi "he knew how to hurt someone who did not obey."

Between 2000 and 2005, the Kwons are accused of depriving Jaihee Jo Hong of more than $19,000 in overtime wages. The couple is alleged to have deprived Jong Chul Choi of more than $90,000 for four years of unpaid labor. Young Jo and Jessie Kwon are also accused of forging employee tax and labor forms.

The Kwons have sold their interests in Osaka Sushi, and now own Sushi Moon, located at 6585 Greenwood Plaza Blvd. in Greenwood Village. The defendants were held in Denver County Jail before posting $10,000 bonds. They were arraigned on May 9, and will appear before the Court again on May 30, 2008.

The investigation was conducted by the Attorney General's Special Prosecution Unit and the FBI's Civil Rights Program. According to the FBI, Human Trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery and is a rapidly growing problem in the U.S. that typically involves aliens and economically disadvantaged victims. Trafficking cases have been identified in a number of everyday industries, including prostitution, exotic dancing, construction, agriculture, restaurants, and domestic services. Any citizen who would like to report possible civil rights violations should contact the Denver division of the FBI at 303-629-7171.

Under its new owners, Osaka Sushi won this year's Best Neighborhood Sushi award. But Sushi Moon, the Kwons' current venture, won nothing.

It helps if you pay your help. -- Patricia Calhoun

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