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Restaurant’s owner and manager fined for hiring illegal workers

The owner and the manager of a French restaurant in San Diego were sentenced in federal court Thursday to serve probation and pay fines after pleading guilty to knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants.

Michel Malecot, 59, the owner of French Gourmet, was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay $396,575 in fines, authorities said. Richard Kauffmann, 59, the manager, was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay $2,500 for his role in hiring the undocumented immigrants to work in the restaurant’s bakery and catering businesses.

U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy said the convictions and sentences should act as a warning to other businesses.

“When employers do not comply, we will take vigorous enforcement action to ensure they do not profit from this illegal tactic,” Duffy said.

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Malecot’s case reflects a new approach by federal authorities as they crack down on the hiring of illegal immigrants. After years of conducting sweeps of undocumented laborers, the federal government is now focusing more on the employers who knowingly hire them.

The strategy contrasts sharply with that of the Bush administration, which conducted highly publicized worksite raids — with armed immigration agents — that led to the arrest and deportation of thousands of illegal workers but few criminal prosecutions of employers.

President Obama called those raids ineffective and criticized them for dividing families and not holding employers accountable.

tony.perry@latimes.com


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