News briefs include finding of illegal workers in Pratt; elderly loneliness addressed; meeting

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune

News Briefs:

Pratt’s former Playa Azul restaurant part of undocumented-worker sting

The Department of Justice has issued warrants for illegal immigrant worker sting.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents, with the assistance of numerous local, states, and federal agencies, executed a series of search warrants on August 25, 2021 at 10 locations in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. Federal agents have so far arrested 14 of the 19 defendants who are charged in a federal racketeering conspiracy to hire undocumented workers.

On June 7, 2019, HSI inspected 10 restaurants in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Those restaurants operated under LLCs, doing business as El Charro (Claremore, Butler and Springfield), Playa Azul (Great Bend, Pratt, Kan., and Wichita, Kan.), Iguana Azul (Nevada, Mo.), Los Sauces (Nevada, Mo.), and La Paloma (Springfield). All of them were found to have employed unauthorized workers. Approximately 68 percent of the employees audited at the restaurants were not authorized to work in the United States.

The recent federal indictment alleges that 17 of the 19 co-defendants were part of an organized criminal enterprise from July 2003 to Aug. 10, 2021, that smuggled Mexican, Guatemalan, and El Salvadoran nationals who were not authorized to live or work in the United States. Conspirators allegedly harbored them in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and created a network of restaurants operating as LLCs in states throughout the Midwest. The defendants allegedly supplied these restaurants with undocumented workers to staff positions at the restaurants. According to the indictment, conspirators did not pay the appropriate state and federal payroll taxes, overtime wages, and worker's compensation for the unauthorized employees.The Stafford County Historical and Genealogical Society will hold their annual meeting at 9:30 a.m., Monday, Sept. 13, at the museum library, 100 N. Main Street in Stafford. Members are encouraged to attend and the public is invited.

In addition to smuggling and harboring undocumented workers, the indictment alleges the racketeering activity included fraud (in connection with identification documents), fraud and misuse of visas and other documents, and money laundering.

Stafford County society to hold annual meeting

The Stafford County Historical and Genealogical Society will hold their annual meeting at 9:30 a.m., Monday, Sept. 13, at the museum library, 100 N. Main Street in Stafford. Members are encouraged to attend and the public is invited.

Greensburg sends in tourism totals

The Big Well Museum in Greensburg welcomed 154 visitors from 20 states and countries, including Canada and S. Africa in the last week of August 2021.

Loneliness addressed by Stafford County seniors

Sandyland Shepherd's Center's August Lunch & Learn addressed “Staying Connected: You Are Not Alone.” On Wednesday, August 25, Amanda Boles from Southwest Kansas Area Aging office met with area residents to discuss issues surrounding loneliness.

According to the National Institute on Aging, losing a sense of connection and community changes a person’s perception of the world and research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions.

“Loneliness acts as a fertilizer for other diseases,” said Dr. Steve Cole, director of the Social Genomics Core Laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles and researching the different ways that loneliness affects how your mind and body function. “Loneliness promotes several different types of wear and tear on the body.” (https://www.nia.nih.gov/ news/social-isolation-loneliness-older-people-pose-health-risks).

Those who attended the informational luncheon at the Ida Long Goodman Memorial Library Community Room said they were uplifted by the event. A light lunch was provided by Cutright Productions and SSC TV3.