Attorney General James Announces Arrest Of Washington Heights Restaurant Owners And Manager For Allegedly Stealing Over $160K From Workers
Defendants Repeatedly Failed to Pay Nine Employees Over $160,000 in Back Wages
NEW YORK -- Attorney General Letitia James today announced the arrests of Manuel Hernandez, one of the owners of Parrilla Latin Bistro (“Parrilla”), Mohammed Harb, manager of Parrilla, and the corporation, 3920 Bwy. Rest. Inc. d/b/a Parrilla Latin Bistro. The two other owners, Jose Hernandez and Gino Hernandez, were not present in court and will be subject to arrest and arraignment on a future court date. The defendants are charged with repeatedly failing to pay nine restaurant workers for the hours worked, in addition to scheming to defraud those workers by continually promising the employees eventual compensation. As a result, the defendants collectively stole at least $160,000 of their employees’ hard-earned wages and are each charged with multiple counts of Grand Larceny. Additionally, Defendants Manuel Hernandez, Jose Hernandez, and 3920 Bwy. Rest. Inc. d/b/a Parrilla Latin Bistro are separately charged with failing to secure workers’ compensation coverage on two separate occasions.
“Stealing hard-earned money from workers will not be tolerated by this administration,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “My office pursued this case on behalf of workers who claim that these employers exploited their trust and good will and denied them the fair wages that all New Yorkers are entitled to. We will never hesitate to investigate any company that is accused of stealing from their workers.”
The felony complaint and statements made during today’s arraignment reveal that between March 3, 2014, and September 11, 2016, Defendants Manuel, Jose, and Gino Hernandez owned and operated Parrilla, located at 3920 Broadway in Manhattan. Harb was a longtime manager of the restaurant. Parrilla employees, including servers and cooks, some of whom had worked for the diner for over seven years, were paid far less than minimum wage at daily, not hourly, rates and were often not paid at all. None of the workers received overtime pay of one and a half times their pay rate when they worked more than forty hours per week.
The investigation revealed that the defendants made repeated promises to the workers that payment was imminent and asked the workers to be patient. However, after the workers waited week after week, payment was sporadic or never came at all. Many of the employees returned to the restaurant to demand their back wages after ending their employment but defendants continually told employees to return at a later date to receive their payments, which did not occur.
Each of the defendants is charged with Grand Larceny in the Second, Third, and Fourth Degrees and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, all felonies. Defendants Manuel Hernandez, Jose Hernandez, and 3920 Bwy. Rest. Inc. d/b/a Parrilla Latin Bistro are each additionally charged with two counts of Failure to Secure Workers’ Compensation Coverage, also felonies. If convicted of the top counts against them, the defendants face up to 5 to 15 years in prison and payment of back wages to their employees.
The charges are accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty in a court of law.
The investigation was handled for the Attorney General’s Office by Investigators Elsa Rojas, Kevin Lonergan, and Anna Ospanova under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Sylvia Rivera and Deputy Chief Investigator John McManus. The Investigations Division is led by Acting Chief Investigator John Reidy.
The prosecution is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Amy Schneider, with the assistance of Legal Assistant II Yadira Filpo, and being supervised by the Labor Bureau’s Criminal Section Chief Richard Balletta, Labor Bureau Chief ReNika Moore, and Chief Stephanie Swenton of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The Labor Bureau is overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jenifer Levy. The Criminal Justice Division is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice José Maldonado.