Most Pei Wei restaurants now open after sheriff's raids

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PHOENIX – Most of the Pei Wei Asian Diner locations that were forced to close in the wake of last month’s immigration raids by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio are back open for business.

More than two dozen people were arrested in the sweeps in early March, leaving the company severely understaffed.

Of the 16 Pei Wei restaurants in Maricopa County, eight were closed while management scrambled to hire replacement workers. Hundreds of people lined up for those jobs.

At this point, locations in Avondale, Gilbert, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise and Tempe have re-opened. Only the Fountain Hills Pei Wei remains closed. There’s no word on when that location might re-open.

The sheriff’s March 4 raid hit four restaurants and the corporate headquarters. According to the sheriff’s office, those arrested were illegal immigrants who had stolen the identities of either children or dead people in order to get jobs.

At the time, deputies reportedly were looking for as many as 121 suspects. They arrested 26 people.

Arpaio said the investigation started last summer and involved more than 100 victims, many of whom live out of state. According to Arpaio, those victims were eager to help.

"That's one thing that makes this operation unusual," Arpaio said shortly after the raids. "People apparently are fed up with the ID theft problem and the problems ID theft cause and are willing to help law enforcement to ensure the successful prosecution of this kind of crime."

Pei Wei said it did not change anything in its hiring procedures as it filled those positions opened up by the sweeps. The company said it already used the E-Verify system, which was created in 2008 to make sure those who are applying for jobs can legally work in the U.S.