Although the US Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement wing enforces more than 400 federal laws, ICE is probably best known for extraditing undocumented migrants from US cities. ICE photo.
A New York sheriff’s deputy moonlighting for a security firm owned by a restaurateur triggered the arrest of a witness in an ongoing federal wage-theft case, and the whistleblower was nearly deported, according to a lawsuit percolating through the courts.
The US Department of Labor accuses David Ip, the owner of the now-shuttered Ichiban Restaurant in Guilderland, of flagrantly violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by retaliating against workers who were suing him in 2017 for allegedly stealing roughly $200,000 in wages.
Ip’s three former employees — Xue Hui Zhang, Yue Hua Chen, and Gui Yong Zhang — were taking a lunch break from depositions for the class-action lawsuit on Aug. 12, 2019, when agents from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement confronted them at a diner near Albany.
In a move that terrified the other two witnesses, the agents arrested Xue and marked him for extradition. And the ICE raid was no coincidence, investigators wrote in a federal complaint filed Aug. 25, 2022, in Syracuse.
Although the US Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents enforce more than 400 laws, ICE is probably best known for removing undocumented migrants from the US. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement photo.
Investigators said Ip, 59, had urged one of his part-time security guards, Rensselaer County Sheriff’s Deputy Adrian Morin Sr., to do something about three ex-employees, a charge the restaurant owner denies.
Labor Department investigators said Ip had given Morin the dates and locations the three men would be in Albany for the depositions. Morin then reached out to ICE “with the goal of having them arrested on the day of the deposition” because the ex-workers had “final orders of removal” and had “absconded” to avoid deportation, according to the federal complaint.
Xue remained incarcerated until he was freed on Sept. 6, 2019.
“The US Department of Labor takes allegations of retaliation very seriously and will not hesitate to take legal action to prevent employers from engaging in unlawful retaliation and recover damages for affected workers,” Regional Solicitor of Labor Jeffrey Rogoff in New York said in a prepared statement sent to Coffee or Die Magazine. “Putting a stop to retaliation is a priority and the department stands ready to litigate aggressively against employers that violate the Fair Labor Standard Act’s anti-retaliation provisions.”
Reached at his Schenectady home, Ip referred all comments to his attorney in Latham, Matthew Mann.
A school resource officer, Rensselaer County Sheriff’s Deputy Adrian “Andy” Morin, speaks to Hoosick Falls Central School District students in 2019. Hoosick Falls Central School District photo.
Mann told Coffee or Die his client categorically “denies any participation in this alleged conduct” and predicted Ip would be vindicated in court.
Coffee or Die’s attempts to locate Morin were unsuccessful. He’s no longer a deputy at the sheriff’s office. Although he was a school resource officer posted to the Hoosick Falls Central School District when he allegedly worked with ICE to deport Xue, he’s no longer listed in the campus directory.
The Feb. 10, 2022, edition of “The Panther Report,” a district circular, reported that school resource officer “Andrew Morin” spent his last day there on Jan. 6, 2022, and the publication wished him well as he “migrates south in retirement.”
But other Hoosick Falls Central School District publications identified the resource officer between 2019 and early 2022 as “Andy” or “Adrian” Morin, and it remains unclear whether “Andrew” Morin is the same deputy.
Neither school leaders nor the sheriff’s office responded to multiple messages from Coffee or Die seeking clarification.
A popular elected figure in upstate New York, Rensselaer County Sheriff Patrick A. Russo, shown here shaking the hand of former Vice President Mike Pence, oversees an office that protects nearly 160,000 residents roughly 150 miles north of New York City. Rensselaer County Sheriff’s Office photos.
Morin isn’t a target of either the class-action or the federal lawsuit, and his attorney in Troy did not respond to Coffee or Die‘s messages seeking comment.
Morin’s former boss, Rensselaer County Sheriff Patrick A. Russo, has forged exceptionally strong ties with ICE.
Despite criticism from civil rights activists, he’s the only sheriff in the state to have inked a string of contracts with the federal agency allowing ICE to deputize his employees as immigration law enforcement officers. And the sheriff’s Rensselaer County Correctional Facility has housed ICE detainees since 2017.
During the most recent federal inspection of the lockup in late 2021, investigators found 46 violations tied to the incarceration of ICE prisoners, including a lack of hot meals, garbage cans left uncovered, inmates forced to wear dirty socks and underwear, a shoddy firefighting plan, and delays in receiving medical and dental screenings after being jailed.
However, ICE marked the facility “acceptable” for its prisoners.
Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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