Attorney General James Secures Over $200,000 In Restitution For Washington Heights Restaurant Workers

Attorney General James Secures Over $200,000 in Restitution for Washington Heights Restaurant Workers

Parrilla Latin Bistro And Owners Criminally Convicted for Repeatedly Failing To Pay Thirteen Employees; Ordered To Pay $214,000 In Back Wages

NEW YORK – Attorney General Letitia James today announced the guilty pleas of Manuel Hernandez, Jose Hernandez, and Gino Hernandez, 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, for failing to pay proper hourly and overtime wages to ten of the restaurant’s workers, and by defrauding those workers by continually promising them eventual payment of compensation. The defendants collectively stole over $200,000 of their employees’ wages. As a condition of their pleas, the defendants today paid restitution to the ten workers, totaling just over $203,000. The defendants also agreed to pay an additional $10,655.64 in restitution to the New York State Department of Labor for wages that they failed to pay to three other workers in a separate yet related case.    

“There is no tolerance for stealing hard-earned money from working New Yorkers,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “My office aggressively fought on behalf of  workers who fell victim to the greed and exploitative acts of their employers. All New Yorkers have a right to fair wages, and my office will continue to investigate anyone who attempts to violate the rights for workers.”

Today in New York County Criminal Court before the Honorable Laurie Peterson, defendant Parrilla was convicted of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a Class “C” felony. Parilla’s owners, Manuel, Jose, and Gino Hernandez, pleaded guilty to Petit Larceny, a Class “A” misdemeanor, and manager Mohammed Harb pleaded guilty to Disorderly Conduct, a violation. All defendants were sentenced to a conditional discharge.   

An investigation by the Attorney General’s Labor Bureau revealed that between March 3, 2014 and February 8, 2019, 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, and were paid at daily rather than hourly rates. Often, workers were not paid at all. Additionally, none of the workers received required overtime pay of one and a half times their pay rate when they worked more than 40 hours per week.

The investigation further revealed that the defendants made repeated promises to their 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. In response, the defendants continually told employees to return at a later date to receive their payments, which never occurred. The restaurant ultimately closed in February 2019. 

Defendants Parilla, Manuel Hernandez and Mohamed Harb were arrested and charged via felony complaint in New York County Criminal Court on March 1, 2019.  At that time, the Court issued arrest warrants for defendants Jose and Gino Hernandez, who had left the country.  On July 29, 2019, defendants Jose and Gino Hernandez returned to the United States and were apprehended at John F. Kennedy Airport. 

The Attorney General thanks the New York State Department of Labor, specifically Deputy Commissioner of Worker Protection James Rogers, Assistant Deputy Commissioner Milan Bhatt, Counsel to Labor Standards Rebecca Nathanson, Chief Labor Standards Investigator Frank King, and Senior Labor Standards Investigator Jose Medina.

The investigation was handled for the Attorney General’s Office by Investigator Elsa Rojas, with the assistance of Investigators Anna Ospanova, Kevin Lonergan, and Steven Pratt,under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Sylvia Rivera and Deputy Chief Investigator John McManus. The Investigations Division is led by Chief Investigator Oliver Pu-Folkes.

The prosecution is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Amy Schneider, with the assistance of Legal Assistant II Yadira Filpo, and is being supervised by the Labor Bureau’s Criminal Section Chief Richard Balletta, Acting Labor Bureau Chief Julie Ulmet, and Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton.  The Labor Bureau is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Meghan Faux.  The Criminal Justice Division is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice José Maldonado.