Dec

3

Breaking: Saigon Grill Owners Arrested

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If you remember in October, Saigon Grill workers were awarded a lot of money because the owners refused to pay their delivery-people and other employees minimum wage for over 70 hours of work per week (even Columbia students protested). Now, after more investigations, New York Attorney General Cuomo has announced that the owners have been charged with 11 counts of Failure to Pay Wages, 127 counts of Failure toKeep Records, and 16 counts of Receipt of “Kickback” Wages for “failing to pay their workers the minimum wage for four years.” 

Allegedly, in order to keep the appearance of running a their business cleanly, the owners would report paying regular wages and force workers to cash checks and return the money.  Bwog respects the owners right to due process, so we will not  continue to speculate on their guilt or innocence before trial, but the large settlement in the civil suit with the workers is not a good sign.

Full press release from the New York AG’s Office after the jump.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Albany Press Office / 518-473-5525

New York City Press Office / 212-416-8060

[email protected]

ATTORNEY GENERAL CUOMO ANNOUNCES ARREST OF SAIGON GRILL OWNERS FOR

SCHEME TO CHEAT WORKERS AND COVER UP MILLIONS IN ILLEGALLY WITHHELD

WAGES

Owners Of Popular Saigon Grill Restaurants Allegedly Maintained

Multiple Sets Of Books and Filed Fraudulent Business Records to Cheat

the State’s Unemployment Insurance Fund and Cover Up Millions they

Bilked from Employees

Delivery Workers Put in 70-80 Hours a Week Below Minimum Wage; Were

Fired for Suing to Recover Wages Owed

NEW YORK, N.Y. (December 3, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo

today announced the arrest of the owners of the popular Saigon Grill

restaurants in New York City for allegedly failing to pay its workers

legal wages, taking illegal kickbacks from workers, cheating the state

unemployment insurance fund, and for creating fraudulent business

records to cover up their illegal actions.

Simon Nget a.k.a. Chang S. Nget, and his wife, Michelle Lu Nget a.k.a.

Pei Ying Nget, are accused of numerous criminal charges based on their

business practices at the Saigon Grill restaurants in Manhattan, located

at 620 Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side and 91 University Place

in Greenwich Village, and formerly located at 1700 Second Avenue on the

Upper East Side.  The Ngets have owned and operated the popular

restaurants since 1996.

The Ngets are also charged with attempting to intimidate the employees

from pursuing a lawsuit to recover the unpaid wages by threatening to

fire those who signed on. This led to the firing of dozens of workers,

but the lawsuit moved forward, and a federal judge found the owners

liable for millions in unpaid wages, citing the crucial nature of the

delivery workers to the restaurants’ success on the Upper West Side

and downtown

“Like so many restaurants across New York City, Saigon Grill was run

on the backs of its workers,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “These

workers allowed the business to thrive, and in exchange they were

allegedly cheated out of wages, fined for ridiculous reasons,

intimidated out of pursuing justice, and then pulled into a painstaking

ploy to cover it all up. Today’s arrests should serve as a reminder to

employers across the state-if you violate the law, you will be

prosecuted.”

According to the criminal complaint, over the course of four years,

delivery workers for the Ngets put in between 70 and 80 hours a week

delivering orders for the restaurant well below minimum wage. In

addition to the delivery workers, the complaint accuses Saigon Grill of

employing dozens of kitchen and restaurant workers who they did not

report at all and received illegal wages ‘off the books,’ cheating

the New York State unemployment insurance fund.

To conceal their underpayments to workers, the Ngets then forced their

workers to cash paychecks in their names and return the full amount of

the check to the restaurants owners in order to create the appearance of

paying lawful wages and legal bookkeeping, according to the complaint.

The Ngets also allegedly relied on faulty bookkeeping to cheat the New

York State unemployment insurance and tax funds. Their quarterly tax

returns, which are used to calculate unemployment insurance benefits,

failed to report the employment of over 65 workers, effectively

jeopardizing this financial safeguard for the workers, whose benefits

may be delayed because of the owner’s failure to claim them on tax

returns and costing the state the expense of having to recoup the money

from the illegal employer.

Unemployment insurance provides temporary income for eligible workers

who become unemployed through no fault of their own and who are ready,

willing, and able to work. If an employer does not pay into the fund, it

can be extremely difficult for a worker to access those benefits.

Having failed to pay their share, mandated by law, the Ngets put their

workers and their families in jeopardy and cheated taxpayers, who pay

ever higher amounts to keep the system working.

The Ngets are charged with a total of 151 counts each of Falsifying

Business Records in the First Degree, 45 counts of Tampering with

Physical Evidence, and 46 counts of Offering a False Instrument for

Filing in the First Degree, all class E felonies which carry a term of

up to four years in prison.  The charges are based on the Ngets’

creation of fake payroll records which they provided to the New York

State Department of Labor during an initial DOL investigation of the

Ngets’ minimum wage violations.

Stemming from these initial minimum wage violations, the Ngets are also

charged with 11 counts of Failure to Pay Wages, 127 counts of Failure to

Keep Records, and 16 counts of Receipt of “Kickback” Wages, all

misdemeanors, for failing to pay their workers the minimum wage for four

years.

In March of 2007, the delivery workers sued their former employers to

recover their rightful wages. After some of the workers had signed an

authorization to commence the lawsuit, the Ngets allegedly called a

meeting of all Saigon Grill delivery workers and threatened to terminate

delivery service altogether at both restaurants-which would have

effectively put all the employees out of work-if they did not each sign

a release of all wage claims. All workers who refused to sign the

release were promptly fired. Based on these actions, the Attorney

General is also charging the Ngets with nine counts each of Tampering

with a Witness in the Fourth Degree, Coercion in the Second Degree, and

Retaliation.

Josephine Lee, Coordinator of the Justice Will Be Served! Campaign,

said: “It is about time that the Ngets be condemned for their reckless

lawlessness. Such actions should not go unpunished. We hope that the

government’s treatment of these sweatshop bosses will justify the many

years they have abused their workers and the public. We urge other

bosses to take notice; and to right their wrongs immediately.”

Sheebani Patel, Organizer of Restaurant Opportunities Center of New

York, said: “All restaurant workers have the same rights, regardless

of their immigration status, and should be treated with dignity by their

employers. Saigon Grill’s practices epitomize how so many owners mar the

industry with poor practices that exploit workers. The workers should be

saluted for their victory, and the Attorney General’s office should be

applauded for taking the abuses of restaurant workers seriously.   This

will have historic industry-wide ramifications in making the industry a

better place to work in.”

These are the latest arrests in a string of criminal charges the

Attorney General has brought against employers who fail to protect and

compensate their workers. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant

Attorney General Rachel Gold with Investigator Brian Ford of the

Attorney General’s Office.  This case is being supervised by Deputy

Attorney General for Social Justice James Rogers.

The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the

defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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9 Comments

  1. Uhoh

    Might need to go get my last fix of bun xao and ga sate from them if this is all true...damn.

  2. Oh Man

    This is awful. It's so sad to imagine that workers are mistreated. It's just not fair. I hope these allegations are false and that the workers were indeed treated fairly. Sigh.

  3. well  

    The allegations are pretty clearly true. This isn't news, except that the owners finally got what they had coming to them.

  4. yo bwog  

    where the fuck is the free food at?!

  5. saigon griii  

    Yeah, about time those mo'fucking unjust proprietors got served some justice! Oh man, I can just imagine their faces when they land in prison and get abused. They underpaid and mistreated so many human beings.

  6. cream  

    dolla dolla bill yall

  7. bwog

    you respect due process and all, but please note, the civil trial wasn't settled. the workers won their claims and were awarded a large sum. that's a big difference from a settlement.

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