Jumbo Buffet under federal investigation, owner speaks out

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By Amanda Manning

 The Jumbo Buffet in La Grange is under a federal investigation and although authorities are not saying why, the owner and manager of the Chinese restaurant is speaking out.

 “Our office was part of a joint investigation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” Terry Sebastian, the head of the Office of Communications at the Kentucky Attorney General said.

One of the owners of Jumbo Buffet, Jenny Zhu, told her side of the story of what happened Tuesday when Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other authorities showed up at her La Grange home.

“They just come in as a surprise the morning at 8:30, everybody was sleeping,” Zhu said about the Tuesday morning raid. “They just touch my stuff.”

After they raided the home, authorities went to Jumbo Buffet, according to Zhu.

“Everything was ransacked a little bit,” Jumbo Buffet Manager Amber Huff said. “They came in and tables were turned upside down. The whole place, it looked like a tornado had run through it.”

The Oldham Era saw Kentucky State Police at the Chinese restaurant on Tuesday. Police did not disclose any information.

“They broke the computer, they open the computer and take something. They took my money,” Zhu added.

The Oldham County Health Department was also called to the scene, but said they were not the reason for the shut down.

 “This wasn’t because of something they were doing, it was because of the circumstances of that day,” Charlie Ward, the Environmental Health Program Manager at the Oldham County Health Department said.

“We were notified from state and federal police agencies because of a potential concern of potentially hazardous food, because it was being left out,” Ward said.

“The food that I saw that was out of temperature was voluntarily thrown away,” he added.

Oldham County Code Enforcement has a sign posted on Zhu’s home in the Cherrywood subdivision, which states that the building is a dangerous structure.

“I cannot go to my house. They turned power off, water off,” Zhu said.


La Grange Police asked Oldham County Code Enforcement for a building inspection, according to Jim Urban, Oldham County Planning and Development director.

“They made some alterations that didn’t comply with Kentucky building code or the plumbing code in order to accommodate more people in the house,” Urban said.

He added that they were wiring new outlets in the home through extension cords. “It was deemed an unsafe structure for habitation because of those violations,” Urban explained.

“They took everything,” Zhu said. “We’re scared. My kids are scared today. We are heartbroken. In the night time at the hotel, we’re still scared, I think about them maybe coming back in.”

Zhu said she has three children.

In addition, multiple rumors have circulated social media on why the restaurant has been closed for the past few days.  The Era could not confirm any of the allegations, including human trafficking, but asked Zhu about them. 

She denied the human trafficking claims. “No it’s not true,” she said. “They like to work here.”

“I don’t think that they’ve kept anybody locked up in their basement or anything,” Huff said about other allegations. “This is all speculation, it is an ongoing investigation. They’ll get it cleared up.”

The Era also asked Zhu if all employees were back working at the restaurant. She said that some are, but others are with ICE.

At least three other Chinese buffets across the state are also under investigation.

In 2009, Fei Tang was sentenced to eight months in prison and three years supervised released for employing illegal workers at Jumbo Buffet. 

Tang plead guilty to knowingly employing at least 10 illegal workers at Jumbo Buffet from Nov. 2006 to Nov. 2007, according to a previous Era article.

ICE seized approximately $59,000 from the restaurant and detained six illegal aliens working at the restaurant in the 2007 case.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Kentucky General is not releasing any other details at this time.

Jumbo Buffet is now operating on normal business hours according to Zhu and Huff.