WOBURN, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Early Tuesday morning, federal agents acted upon multiple search and arrest warrants at a couple of restaurants on Woburn's Main Street. A father and son who run those two establishments were arrested that same day, and charged on counts related to human smuggling.
Homeland Security Investigations agents could be seen entering The Dog House Bar & Grill and "Tudo Na Brasa" — also called Taste of Brazil, collecting documents and computers to place into boxes.
According to the office of U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins, restaurant operators Jesse Moraes and Hugo Moraes, both of Woburn, were charged with encouraging and inducing people to come to, enter, and reside in the United States illegally for their own financial gain.
Marcos Chacon, also of Woburn, was charged for knowingly transferring fake identification documents, money laundering, and with illegal reentry by a deported alien. The brother of Jesse Moraes, Chelbe Williams Moraes of Brazil, was charged on similar counts.
Prosecutors say Chelbe Moraes offered to smuggle people from Brazil into the U.S. for a price of somewhere between $18,000 to $22,000. Then, once the individuals were in the U.S., Jesse and Hugo Moraes would allegedly employ them in their Woburn restaurants, withholding their wages to pay off their smuggling debts. In order to obtain work authorization or make asylum claims, the suspects also allegedly offered their clients fake documentation.
Each of the charges can carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years with fines that can total up to $250,000, with the money laundering charge fining any guilty party at least half a million dollars.
In a statement, Homeland Security, which is a part of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, told WBZ NewsRadio that the raid was a joint effort between federal and local police.
"In the early hours this morning, Homeland Security Investigations and the Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General, with assistance from Woburn Police, executed federal search and arrest warrants at several residences and businesses in Woburn," a spokesperson for the Homeland Security said.
WBZ's Suzanne Sausville spoke to a couple of residents who say they never noticed any sort of suspicious activity near the restaurants.
"I'm very surprised because I never thought that human [smuggling would be] in Woburn. The Taste of Brazil has been here for a while, but there are so many new pop-up Brazilian restaurants around— so you wonder what's going on." said Woburn resident Claire.
WBZ's Suzanne Sausville (@wbzSausville) said.