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Federal investigation

Several people taken into custody at House of Kobe

Several people taken into custody at House of Kobe

March 24, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Federal agents entered a Hagerstown restaurant before lunch Wednesday and took several people into custody as part of an investigation targeting illegal immigrants, members of the Hagerstown Police Department said.

Detective Steve Hoover said that members of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took about seven people into custody at the House of Kobe on Dual Highway at about 11 a.m.

Hoover said he knows no details of the federal investigation.

Capt. Charles Summers, the city department's acting chief, said local officers were brought in to help ICE agents at the restaurant. The city police department was not part of the investigation, he said.

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"We were just for backup ... in case anyone decided to resist or be disorderly," Summers said. "Everything was relatively peaceful."

Summers and Hoover said they do not know if Wednesday's action was part of a larger investigation.

Ernestine Fobbs, a public affairs officer for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is within the Department of Homeland Security, said only that "there was an action that took place (at House of Kobe). It is an ongoing investigation."

In March 2003, investigative and enforcement responsibilities relating to federal immigration laws, customs laws and air security laws were transferred to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), according to the Department of Homeland Security Web site.

ICE is the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, according to the ICE Web site.

House of Kobe co-owner Masahirao Hirai said the restaurant was open for dinner Wednesday evening, though the building had no customers at 3:30 p.m. Hirai repeatedly declined to comment about Wednesday morning's incident.

Summers said he believes it is the first time such an investigation has included House of Kobe.

"They (ICE) have been at Chinese or Mexican restaurants in the past, but never a Japanese restaurant that I know of," he said.

Staff Writer Pepper Ballard contributed to this story.

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