Brentwood,CA(WorkCompAcademy) - Prosecutors allege that the former owners and managers of Golden Dragon Buffet in Brentwood, New Dragon Buffet in San Leandro, Golden Wok Buffet in Roseville and Kokyo Sushi Buffet in Hayward were saving money by failing to pay their workers minimum wage and pay the correct workers' compensation premiums. Investigators estimate they committed $4.5 million in wage theft from 2009-2013, and cheated California out of another $2 million in taxes.
According to the story published in the East Bay Times, a Contra Costa grand jury indicted eight of Golden Dragon's owners and managers last December - Brandon Quang, Yu Chen, Rongdi Zheng, Guo Cai Feng, Feng Gu, Lin Jiang, Zhou Xian Chen and Shao Rong Zhang - on 28 charges, including conspiracy, wage theft and workers compensation fraud. That same month, authorities raided four locations connected to the buffet chain, but Quang avoided arrest and fled the country. So did Feng and Jiang. All three are believed to be in China.
The other five defendants have agreed to plead guilty to some of the charges, and prosecutors have asked for sentences ranging from three to six years in state prison.
The restaurants have since taken on new ownership, but former workers who testified before the grand jury described being housed in crowded, racially segregated dorms, and being bused to work 12-hour shifts six days a week without adequate breaks.
The chain's owners recruited workers, mostly recent immigrants, from an employment agency in Southern California. When they got to the Bay Area, some were paid less than $6 per hour, according to prosecutors. When it became known that some of the workers were cooperating with police, one of the owners allegedly kicked them out and threatened to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
State labor officials say it is considered the biggest wage theft case in Contra Costa County's history, but in the bigger picture they say "it's just a drop in the bucket".
The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on Friday, at 1:30 p.m. in Department 23 of the A.F. Bray Courthouse in Martinez.