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
ATTORNEY GENERAL CUOMO ANNOUNCES ARREST OF SAIGON GRILL OWNERS FOR
SCHEME TO CHEAT WORKERS AND COVER UP MILLIONS IN ILLEGALLY WITHHELD
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
“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
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
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
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.
@civil trial http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/22/nyregion/22saigon.html
@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.
@cream dolla dolla bill yall
@CU news? http://www.nypost.com/seven/12022008/news/regionalnews/hooker_aide_in_snow_job_141825.htm
uma thurman’s parents accidentally hired the booker for spitzer’s hooker
@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.
@yo bwog where the fuck is the free food at?!
@well The allegations are pretty clearly true. This isn’t news, except that the owners finally got what they had coming to them.
@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.
@Uhoh Might need to go get my last fix of bun xao and ga sate from them if this is all true…damn.