1 person arrested as Hibachi Buffet restaurant in Burlington investigated for human trafficking

BURLINGTON, N.C. – One person has been arrested as the Hibachi Buffet restaurant in Burlington is being investigated for human trafficking.

Homeland Security Investigations made the arrest in connection to an immigration violation. The person's name has not been released. The person was a foreign national who had been deported several times, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Alcohol Law Enforcement agents executed a search warrant at the restaurant on Thursday morning after a complaint by police about possible human trafficking.

The restaurant at 309 Huffman Mill Road on the side of an entrance to the Holly Hill Mall was temporarily closed as authorities conducted the search.

A home in the 900 block of Tremore Club Drive in Burlington was also searched Thursday morning. The home is owned by the owners of the restaurant, according to authorities.

The allegations do not involve children and potentially could involve men and women who work there, according to Rodney Beckom, a special agent with ALE (Alcohol Law Enforcement).

Beckom said agents will now review evidence and interviews. He said more than a dozen people, including employees, were interviewed. Beckom added that those interviews will need to be translated.

Beckom said ALE has been investigating the restaurant for weeks.

The investigation started after police responded to a standoff in the 2200 block of Dorsett Street at a home that the restaurant’s owners also own, according to authorities. The case involved a suspect cutting tires in a driveway with a machete and acting erratically.

Police saw something at the Dorsett Street home that made them believe that the location could be linked to human trafficking. Police have not said what it was.

Neighbors said they often saw people coming and going from the home at all hours.

"We’ve known for a while that something was not right and we knew this is how it would eventually end up,” said Debbie Weigand.

Officers joined forces with ALE and HSI (Homeland Security Investigations) and the investigation led them to the Hibachi Buffet.

The Hibachi Buffet was closed on Friday but said in a sign that the buffet would reopen on Saturday.

Terri Jones, the general manager for the Holly Hill Mall, said the owners have been tenants since 2011 and have not had prior issues.

She said they are still in good standing with their lease and she has not been notified that they have broken any laws.

FOX8 is working to gather more information as it becomes available.

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