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United States v. Zhang

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

June 15, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
MEI JUAN ZHANG; MEI YA ZHANG, Defendants, Appellants

APPEALS FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MAINE. Hon. John A. Woodcock, Jr., U.S. District Judge.

Neil L. Fishman on brief for appellant Mei Juan Zhang.

Joanne T. Petito and Mirsky & Petito on brief for appellant Mei Ya Zhang.

Thomas E. Delahanty II, United States Attorney, and Margaret D. McGaughey, Assistant United States Attorney, on brief for appellee.

Before Lynch, Chief Judge, Howard and Thompson, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

LYNCH, Chief Judge.

These two appeals present two questions of first impression in this circuit: (1) whether, given the language of the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act (MVRA), 18 U.S.C. § 3663A, the United States (through one of its agencies) is a " victim"

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for purposes of the MVRA; and (2) if so, whether the amount of restitution imposed under the MVRA should be offset by the value of property forfeited to the Attorney General under 18 U.S.C. § 982. We hold, in agreement with every circuit to have considered these issues, that the United States is a " victim" within the meaning of § 3663A, and that a restitution award may not be offset by the value of property forfeited to the Attorney General. We affirm the restitution orders imposed by the district court.

I.

Only those facts necessary to frame the issues are presented. Defendants Mei Ya Zhang and Mei Juan Zhang are sisters who each managed Chinese restaurants in Maine where undocumented immigrants were employed.[1] Mei Juan Zhang managed a buffet restaurant in Waterville, Maine (" the Waterville Buffet" ), and assisted in transporting the restaurant's employees back and forth from a " safe house" in Waterville where the employees lived. She admitted that she was responsible for hiring new employees and that she knew some of the individuals she hired were not authorized to work in the United States.

Similarly, Mei Ya Zhang managed a buffet restaurant in Brewer, Maine (" the Brewer Buffet" ). She admitted being responsible for the hiring of new employees, some of whom she knew were not authorized to work in the United States. She also was in charge of the " Brewer Safe House" where some of the Brewer Buffet's undocumented employees lived.

Defendants' uncle, Zi Qian Zhang, was apparently the mastermind behind the hiring of the undocumented immigrants. At the time defendants were charged, he was the owner of the Brewer Buffet and the previous owner of the Waterville Buffet. He arranged for the undocumented immigrants to be sent to the restaurants and hired.

Defendants were charged with conspiracy to harbor and aiding and abetting the harboring of illegal aliens for commercial advantage and private financial gain, see 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii), (v), (B)(i); conspiracy to launder money, see 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a), (h); and conspiracy to file false employer's quarterly tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service, see 18 U.S.C. § 371. The basis of the last charge was defendants' failure to include the cash compensation paid to the undocumented immigrants on the restaurants' tax returns, which in turn resulted in an underpayment of federal employment taxes to the IRS. The charging documents for both defendants included a notice of forfeiture pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 982, which included any property that derived from or was used to facilitate the offenses. The government in ...


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