ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The owner of an Abilene restaurant has been charged with human trafficking, accused of holding an undocumented immigrant in a home and forcing him to work with no money or food for six months.
Hai Zhuang was arrested on a Trafficking of Persons warrant Wednesday in connection to the allegations. He remains held in the Taylor County Jail on a $200,000 bond.
Court documents state an undocumented immigrant gave a statement to the Texas Attorney General’s Office, Human Trafficking Unit in February, outlining the allegations against Zhuang.
This immigrant told investigators he was smuggled into the United States with 12 others from Hondarus in January 2021, then was taken to a stash house in Houston before he was transported to Abilene.
When he arrived, the documents state this immigrant was at the Fun Noodle Bar on Southwest Drive in Abilene, and he saw Zhuang, who is the owner, exchange a large stack of money with the man who brought him there.
The documents state Zhuang told the immigrant he owed the restaurant 6 months of labor then he would be paid $2,000 a month, and that all his food and shelter needs would be covered.
However, this immigrant says Zhuang took him to a house in Abilene and hid his passport, and the documents state the immigrant claims he was then forced to work 10-to-12-hour days without even a bathroom break and was often not fed, forcing him to steal scraps that customers left at the restaurant.
This immigrant also said he was beaten by Zhuang, and when he requested his first $2,000 payment, Zhuang told him “that they owned him now,” according to the documents.
In July or August 2021, the documents state an unknown man helped this immigrant escape and go to Dallas.
A subsequent investigation by the Texas Attorney General’s Office helped authorities locate the stash house in Houston, as well as the house in Abilene where this immigrant was held, and a white van that was used for transportation.
No further information has been released.