Federal agents who arrested 22 food workers at South Coast Plaza this week said they suspect 58 other illegal workers had used forged documents to work at two trendy restaurants in the Orange County mall. One focus of the investigation is whether anyone at Wolfgang Puck's Cafe or Birraporetti's was involved in a phony identification ring, said John Brechtel, acting head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service's Santa Ana office. At Birraporretti's, where 12 busboys, dishwashers and waitresses were arrested Tuesday, 33 more workers had given Social Security and green card numbers that didn't check out, Brechtel said. At Wolfgang Puck's, in addition to the 10 arrested Tuesday, 25 workers had apparently used phony Social Security and green card numbers, Brechtel said. The Puck cafe at the Costa Mesa mall reopened for lunch Wednesday. Birraporretti's said it would reopen for dinner Friday. Operators of both restaurants say they followed INS procedures and were duped by sophisticated forgeries.
E. Scott Reckard
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