For Immediate Release: May 22, 2013
A.G. Schneiderman Secures Guilty Plea from Suffolk Car Wash Boss Who Failed to Pay Minimum Wage
Owner Ordered To Pay $75,000 Restitution To Workers Who Were Paid As Little As $4 An Hour; Schneiderman: Taking Advantage Of Those Seeking To Earn An Honest Wage Is Illegal In New York
(SUFFOLK, NY) - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has secured a guilty plea in its case against Don Hyuk Choi, a Long Island car wash owner who failed to pay at least 10 of his workers the state-mandated minimum wage and legally required overtime wages. As part of his plea, Mr. Choi will pay $75,000 in restitution for unpaid wages.
“Every New Yorker has a right to be paid the legally required minimum wage and overtime rates and my office will prosecute shady businesses that break the law by grossly underpaying their workers,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “This guilty plea means the abuse and flagrant violations of the law by this car wash owner must stop.”
An investigation by the Attorney General’s Office revealed that, from March 2008 to March 2012, Mr. Choi paid at least 10 car washers hourly rates of as little as $4, well below the required minimum wage. Mr. Choi and his company failed to pay overtime wages, set at one and a half times the employee’s regular rate for hours worked past 40 in a week. The company also failed to buy required workers’ compensation insurance for most of his employees.
The state minimum wage rate is $7.25 per hour. There is a slightly lower minimum wage for employees who regularly receive tips. That rate depends upon the industry, and for car wash workers the tipped minimum wage is $5.50 per hour. However, the lower, tipped wage only applies under certain conditions, which were not met in this case.
Mr. Choi, 63, of Palisades Park, N.J., pleaded guilty today before Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho to one misdemeanor count of Failure to Pay Wages in Accordance with the Labor Law. His company, D & J Central, Inc., located at 120 West Suffolk Avenue in Central Islip, pleaded guilty to one felony count of Failure to Secure the Payment of Compensation for More than Five Employees Within a Twelve Month Period and Failure to Pay Wages in Accordance with the Labor Law, a misdemeanor.
In addition to the restitution order, Mr. Choi will complete 40 hours of community service. In addition, the defendants will submit to two years of monitoring of their employment practices by the Attorney General’s Office.
Deborah Axt, Co-Executive Director, Make the Road New York, said, “We congratulate the workers at MC Islip/D&J Car Wash for their victory and thank Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his staff for sending a clear message that wage theft will not be tolerated in New York State.”
Ronald Barrera, former employee of D&J Car wash, said, “For years I worked for less than minimum wage at MC Islip/D&J Car Wash. Today our victory shows that employers can no longer get away with stealing workers’ hard-earned wages here in Suffolk County. I am grateful to the Attorney General for sending a message to workers that their rights will be protected.”
Attorney General Schneiderman thanks the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office for their assistance in processing the arrest of Mr. Choi.
The investigation was conducted by New York Attorney General Investigators Sal Ventola and Luis Carter under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Kenneth Morgan, Deputy Chief Vito Spano and Chief Dominick Zarrella.
This case was prosecuted by Section Chief Andrew Elmore under the supervision of Labor Bureau Section Chief Felice Sontupe, Labor Bureau Chief Terri Gerstein, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan and First Deputy of Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.
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