Thai Ginger owner faces jail time in immigration case
October 27, 2009
Issaquah restaurateur Varee Bradford has pleaded guilty to federal immigration charges.Bradford, 44, operator of the Thai Ginger restaurant chain, admitted to paying employees to enter “sham marriages” with her Thai relatives to help them stay in the United States.
Bradford faces up to five years in prison when she is sentenced Jan. 22. She pleaded guilty Oct. 23 to conspiracy to commit immigration fraud.
Authorities unsealed a federal grand-jury indictment in U.S. District Court in Seattle June 23 against Bradford and former Thai Ginger employee Porramin Tangchaiwanna.
Authorities said Bradford offered male and female employees up to $25,000 to enter sham marriages with her Thai relatives for immigration purposes. Bradford was charged with crimes stemming from four instances from 2001 to 2007 in which marriages were set up between Thai Ginger employees and her relatives.
Tangchaiwanna pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud and was sentenced to four months in jail.
The marriage scheme unraveled when Bradford and Tangchaiwanna met an undercover federal immigrant agent in February 2008 at one of Bradford’s Seattle restaurants. Bradford introduced the agent to a woman and said she would pay the agent $20,000 to marry the woman.
Thai Ginger operates restaurants on the Eastside in Klahanie, Bellevue and Redmond. The chain also includes two Seattle restaurants and a counter at Safeco Field.