Lexington Subway owners indicted in immigrant-harboring case

jwarren@herald-leader.comDecember 19, 2013 

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A federal grand jury has indicted Lexington Subway owners Amrutlal Patel and his wife, Dakshaben Patel, who were charged last month in U.S. District Court with knowingly and willfully harboring undocumented Indian nationals employed in their restaurants.

The indictment, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in London, charges the Patels with four counts of harboring undocumented immigrants. It lists four people by initials only that the Patels allegedly concealed "for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain" in violation of federal law.

The Patels, who are from India but who have lived in the United States since 2006, were arrested Nov. 19 after federal agents raided their stores in Lexington. Law-enforcement agencies also searched the Patels' brick home on Ellerslie Park Boulevard, off Richmond Road.

The Patels, both 46, are free on bond but are living at their Lexington home under strict restrictions on travel and outside contact that were imposed by federal court.

The indictment of the Patels comes after attorney Mark Wohlander, who represents Dakshaben Patel, told the Herald-Leader and WKYT-TV that his client and her husband have been miscast, and that prosecutors "sensationalized" an affidavit further clouding the issues.

Wohlander has disputed several things that were mentioned in the affidavit, including reports that a worker was beaten and locked up in a secret room. There was no secret room, and the worker was not beaten, the attorney contends.

"I don't think they (the Patels) were doing any more than providing (the workers) an opportunity to survive while they were in this country," Wohlander told the Herald-Leader.

Kyle Edelen, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, and other federal law enforcement officials have said they cannot discuss the case because it is ongoing.

After the Patels' initial federal court appearance, Wohlander also suggested that the couple were only trying to live up to the teachings of their Hindu faith by helping fellow Indians in need.

In contrast, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hydee Hawkins has noted that some of the undocumented individuals the Patels employed were paid as little as $4 or $5 an hour. She said they didn't receive overtime.

Prosecutors say the Patels required undocumented Indian nationals to work 10- and 12-hour days up to seven days a week at four Lexington Subways. The couple operate four Subway franchises — at 1202 Versailles Road, 630 East Main Street, 360 Southland Drive, and inside a Wal-Mart at 500 West New Circle Road.

Thursday's indictment says the Patels profited from the alleged actions, dating from April 2012 to November 2013.

Several pieces of their property could be subject to forfeiture, including a silver 2008 Honda CRV, a 2009 Honda Accord, a 2013 Toyota Venza and their home on Ellerslie Park Boulevard. An amount of $51,475 also was listed for proceeds derived from the commission of the alleged offenses.

If convicted, the Patels could face up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255. Twitter: @hlpublicsafety

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