Seven charges added to case against Lexington Subway owners

jmadden@herald-leader.comFebruary 7, 2014 

Amrutlal Patel, left, and Dakshaben Patel.

A federal grand jury has added seven charges against Lexington Subway owners Amrutlal Patel and his wife, Dakshaben Patel, who were charged last year 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 lists four counts of aiding and abetting undocumented immigrants; one charge each of paying immigrant workers below the standard minimum wage and of paying less than time-and-a-half to those who worked more than 40 hours a week; and one charge of harboring an immigrant. The new indictment lists initials of four people who the Patels are accused of concealing "for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain" in violation of federal law.

The Patels, who are from India and have lived in the United States since 2006, were arrested Nov. 19 after federal agents raided their stores in Lexington. The stores are at 1202 Versailles Road, 360 Southland Drive, 630 East Main Street, and inside a Wal-Mart at 500 West New Circle Road, according to the court document. Law-enforcement agencies also searched the Patels' home on Ellerslie Park Boulevard. An indictment in December charged the Patels with four counts of harboring undocumented immigrants.

The Patels, both 46, were freed on bond and are living at home under strict restrictions on travel and outside contact.

In December, attorney Mark Wohlander, who represents Dakshaben Patel, said his client and her husband have been miscast, and that prosecutors clouded the case by sensationalizing an affidavit.

Wohlander has disputed several things mentioned in that 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.

The new charges have not changed Wohlander's plan of defense, he said.

"It didn't catch us off guard — we kind of knew it was coming," he said. "We're going to push forward like we planned for."

Wohlander said he hopes to have the indictment thrown out because of the Patels' Hindu beliefs. He said their religion requires them to care for those who are in need, and he said the government knows — but has not admitted — that the couple didn't bring the immigrants to the United States.

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

Several pieces of their property, including a silver 2008 Honda CRV, a 2009 Honda Accord, a 2013 Toyota Venza and their home on Ellerslie Park Boulevard, could be subject to forfeiture. An amount of $51,475 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, three years of supervised release and other penalties.

The Patels are due in Fayette County District court at 1 p.m. Thursday for arraignment on the new charges.

Justin Madden: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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