Prosecutors seek narrow arguments in Paragon case

2013-10-30T20:30:00Z 2013-10-31T10:04:10Z Prosecutors seek narrow arguments in Paragon caseElvia Malagon, (219) 933-3246

HAMMOND | Prosecutors filed a motion this week asking a federal judge to not allow certain arguments in the case against the owners of a Schererville restaurant accused of housing workers who weren't in the country legally.

Michael McClellan and Tina McClellan were charged in October 2012 with bringing in and harboring workers for the Paragon Restaurant who were living in the country illegally, along with mail fraud and money laundering, according to court records.

The trial for the McClellans is slated to start Nov. 12.

Prosecutors are specifically asking a judge not allow arguments about the previous restaurant owners who also hired workers living in the country illegally, according to the motion. The former owners will not be called to testify during the trial.

According to the motion, federal authorities began investigating the Paragon Restaurant before the McClellans bought it in 2008, and the former owners followed similar practices of hiring and housing workers who weren't in the country legally. The former owners weren't charged, and the motion does not delve into why charges weren't sought.

"Whether or not the prior owners were criminally charged does not make the facts relating to Michael McClellan's harboring illegal aliens or participation in a fraud scheme to under report his employee wages more or less probable," the motion stated.

Prosecutors also are asking a judge to not allow arguments about race playing a role in the charges and arguments about how neither have previous criminal histories, according to the motion.

The McClellans, of Richton Park, Ill., are accused of falsifying records and applications at their Calumet City daycare. This allowed them to receive funds from the state of Illinois program that helps families pay for daycare, according to the motion.

The couple is accused of using more than $10,000 from those daycare funds to purchase a home near the Paragon Restaurant, according to court records. Prosecutors say the couple hired restaurant workers who were in the country illegally and allowed them to live in the house for free.

According to the motion, the couple skimmed cash from restaurant sales to pay workers in cash.

Scott King, the couple's attorney, said in 2012 that his clients weren't aware of their workers' immigration status. He said the couple agreed to keep the restaurant staff when they purchased the business.

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