Owners of Schererville Paragon restaurant charged with using illegal workers
By Teresa Auch Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org November 29, 2012 5:06PM
Updated: January 1, 2013 6:31AM
More than two years after his Schererville restaurant was raided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, an Illinois man and his wife face federal charges connected to the restaurant and a child day care business they ran.
Michael McClellan, 38, of Richton Park, Ill., plans to plead not guilty, his attorney, Scott King, said Thursday.
McClellan, who bought Paragon in 2008, is charged with one count of harboring illegal aliens at the restaurant, on U.S. 30, and in a house behind the restaurant, at 1747 St. John Road.
When agents raided the restaurant in March 2010, they arrested 13 people. McClellan said at the time he had been trying to resolve some of the problems he inherited when he took over Paragon. He is still listed as the president of Paragon Family Restaurant and Banquets.
The indictment, unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Hammond, says McClellan harbored the illegal workers since at least February 2009.
He also faces three mail fraud counts connected with not reporting the illegal workers to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, meaning that he paid less unemployment tax than he should have.
“Homeland Security Investigations holds employers accountable when they knowingly hire an illegal alien workforce to gain an unfair advantage over their law-abiding competitors,” Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of HSI Chicago, said. “Our goal is to level the playing field for those businesses that play by the rules.”
Both McClellan and his wife, Tina McClellan, 36, are charged with a fifth count of making a monetary transaction with criminally derived property. That count is connected to T&M Day Care, a business they operated in Calumet City, Ill., from 2006 through 2010. The indictment claims the state of Illinois reimbursed the two for providing child care to low-income families and that another group, Healthy Start, paid them for giving meals to the children.
The day care never watched those children, according to the indictment, and the McClellans instead pocketed at least $200,000 for services never provided.
They then used $112,000 to buy the St. John Road house in October 2009. Federal attorneys are asking that the McClellans forfeit the house and $3,520 in cash.
King said he and his clients are eager to see more information from the government as the indictment was just unsealed Thursday.
“We believe there’s some significant questions regarding the government’s theory in this case,” he said.
Both the McClellans were released Thursday on a $20,000 bond. An arraignment for both is scheduled for Dec. 11.