A.G. Schneiderman Announces Guilty Pleas And Convictions Of Two Specialty Food Markets For Failing To Pay Workers Nearly $450,000 In Wages

Written by Long Island News & PR  |  20. September 2017

Queens, NY – September 20, 2017 – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the guilty pleas and convictions of S&L Vegetables, Corp. and J&B Vegetables, Inc., two grocers that did business as Apna Bazar Cash & Carry (“Apna Bazar”) and operated two food markets in Floral Park and Hicksville, NY. Each Apna Bazar market pled guilty to one count of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, one count of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, one count of Failure to Pay Wages, and one count of Willful Failure to Pay Contributions. The plea agreement mandates that Apna Bazar pay a total of $447,832.11 for unpaid wages and $162,445.47 in unpaid unemployment contributions to the New York State Department of Labor (“NYSDOL”)–bringing the total wages recovered by Attorney General Schneiderman since taking office to nearly $30 million for more than 21,000 workers. Today, the Queens County Supreme Court sentenced each Apna Bazar market to a three-year conditional discharge with a condition that the stores undergo monitoring for one year. The Court also ordered the defendants to pay restitution for the back wages and unemployment insurance contributions, which the Attorney General’s Office confirmed has been paid in full by the defendants.
"The defendants in this case acted out of greed, cheating over 150 hardworking employees out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in wages they earned," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "My office will continue to enforce wage and labor laws to make sure that New Yorkers get the pay they rightfully earn and ensure companies are meeting their obligations to the unemployment insurance safety net."  
"Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, the Department of Labor will continue to vigorously pursue any employer who willingly cheats workers out of what they’re rightfully owed,” said State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. “What’s more, in this case, the employer chose to attempt to skirt their Unemployment Insurance obligations. The Department of Labor takes the responsibility of investigating these crimes very seriously and will continue to refer these cases to law enforcement offices around the state."
An investigation conducted by the New York State Department of Labor and referred to the Attorney General’s Office revealed that between 2012 and 2015, Apna Bazar repeatedly failed to pay proper minimum wage and overtime to more than 150 employees working at both of these markets. Many of these employees worked over 60 hours per week but were paid a fixed daily amount, which often resulted in paychecks that were well below the state minimum wage for even a typical 40 hour workweek. In addition, the employees did not receive proper overtime compensation of time-and-one half for working over 40 hours in a week. Both Apna Bazar entities also failed to accurately report to the NYSDOL the number of employees working at both locations during this period, falsifying their New York State Quarterly Combined Withholding, Wage Reporting, and Unemployment Insurance Return forms—resulting in significant underpayment of unemployment contributions to the NYSDOL.
Apna Bazar’s Long Island market is located at 217 Bethpage Rd. in Hicksville, NY and its Queens location is located at 260-04 Hillside Ave. in Floral Park, NY. As part of the plea agreements, Apna Bazar agreed to place both locations under supervision by an independent monitor for one year. The monitor will ensure that employees are paid properly, that there is accurate reporting of employees and that all documentation is properly submitted to the NYSDOL, as well as require two bi-annual reports detailing defendants’ compliance with the applicable labor and penal laws.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Jennifer S. Michael and Matthew Ross, under the direct supervision of Labor Bureau Criminal Section Chief Richard Balletta and Labor Bureau Chief ReNika Moore. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg and the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau Chief is Stephanie Swenton. This case was investigated by Senior Labor Standards Investigator Reyna Moreno of the New York State Department of Labor Division of Labor Standards, and Louis Adinolfi and Peter Dixon, Auditors with the New York State Department of Labor Unemployment Insurance Division, under the supervision of Milan Bhatt, Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Worker Protection, and James Rogers, Deputy Commissioner for Worker Protection. The case was also investigated by New York State Attorney General Investigator Edward Ortiz, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Sylvia Rivera, Deputy Chief Investigator John McManus and Chief of the Investigations Unit, Dominick Zarrella. 

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