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Post date: October 4 2012

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Guilty Plea Of Home Health Agency Owner For Failing To Pay Workers $300,000 In Wages

Brightstar Owner Christopher Luis Pays Full Restitution To 109 Employees Who Worked Without Pay

Employer Recorded YouTube Videos Asking Workers To Continue Working Without Pay

Schneiderman: Failing to Pay Workers is a Crime And Unscrupulous Employers Will Be Held Accountable


NEW YORK--Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the guilty plea and sentencing of home health agency owner Christopher Luis, 58, of Manhattan, for failing to pay 109 employees of his company, CLBAZ Connections, LLC, over a six-month period. Luis, whose business operated at 11 Penn Plaza, admitted to a misdemeanor count of Failure to Pay Wages in violation of Labor Law Section 198-a(1) .

As part of the court proceeding, Luis earlier this week paid his former employees nearly $300,000 in back wages plus nearly $75,000 in damages which the employees will receive. In addition, he paid $3,000 in civil penalties to the state. He was sentenced by Honorable Matthew A. Sciarrino to pay restitution and perform 100 hours of community service.

"Christopher Luis' home health care employees worked day and night over many months helping frail and sick patients without any compensation at all. As a result of this action, these workers will get the justice they deserve," saidAttorney General Schneiderman. "In New York State, failing to pay workers is a crime, and my office will aggressively pursue employers who do not pay employees the wages they are owed."

Luis' company, which did business as Brightstar New York and 24-7 Brightstar Healthcare, placed aides in patients' homes, where they provided home health care, child care, and elder care services to vulnerable New Yorkers. According to the complaint, from March 2011 until he closed the business in late September 2011, Luis failed to pay wages to many employees, including certified nurse aides, a nurse and office staff. In August 2011, Luis admitted to a New York State Department of Labor investigator that he had stopped paying workers months before and that he currently owed wages to approximately 80 workers. He continued hiring and not paying additional workers even after that time. 

Even after he stopped paying them, employees continued to work for Luis, relying on his direct and public appeals through emails and texts, telephone conference calls, and YouTube videos promising to pay wages owed, plus bonuses and benefits, for all employees who continued to work without pay.  He informed workers that if they hired an attorney or sued the company he would not pay them either a bonus or benefits.

Luis was arrested yesterday and charged with five counts of Failure to Pay Wages in Accordance with the Labor Law, under Labor Law Section 198-a(1), an unclassified misdemeanor. He pleaded guilty to one count of Failure to Pay Wages and was sentenced to a conditional discharge and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service in addition to the restitution. 

The Attorney General would like to thank the New York State Department of Labor for its cooperation in this matter.

The case was investigated by staff of the Attorney General's office, including Investigator Sal Ventola and Senior Investigator Brian Ford under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Kenneth Morgan and Deputy Chief John McManus.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Meredith McGowan, under the supervision of Labor Bureau Section Chief Felice Sontupe, Labor Bureau Chief Terri Gerstein and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Nancy Hoppock.

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