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Bay Area Restaurant Owners Ordered to Pay $1 Million to Workers in Wage Theft Case

They were illegally paid as little as $2 an hour and lived in terrible conditions

Porsche C./Yelp

Workers at a group of Bay Area restaurants who lived in terrifying conditions and labored for 11 to 12 hours a day, six days a week — all while earning as little as $2 an hour — will receive wage theft repayments totaling more than one million dollars, the Alameda District Attorney’s Office announced today. That’s after two owners of the now-closed restaurants, which were Mango Garden in Fremont, Mango Jungle in San Jose, and Mango Blaze in San Mateo, were convicted on multiple charges of fraud. $1.7 million in assets was seized to pay restitution.

Restaurant co-owner Hai Jie Chen was convicted on felony violations of conspiring to commit wage theft, and tax and insurance fraud, while co-owner Hak Chun Ng was convicted of a misdemeanor violation for failure to pay minimum wage. They were placed on probation, ordered to perform community service, and ordered to pay $1,153,013 in criminal restitution to the victims — $1,006,455 in wages, $86,694 dollars in insurance premium fraud, and $59,864 dollars in sale tax fraud.

All of the restaurant workers lived in housing supplied by the owners, with as many as 15 people living in a two-bedroom apartment with mattresses on the ground. For three years they were bussed two and from work, denied overtime payment, had tips stolen by management, and in some cases, were denied medical treatment.

The Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus referred the case to local authorities, and represented some workers who cooperated with an investigation. The Worker Protection Division of the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, the California Department of Industrial Relations, the California Department of Insurance, the California Employment and Development Department, and the State Franchise Tax Board conducted a joint investigation, and eventually seized assets like bank accounts, homes, and businesses from the restaurant owners.

The DA prosecuted defendants Chen and Ng. “We are here to protect the rights of workers, and will bring to justice any employer who engages in exploitation of his or her employees.” District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said in a statement.