San Gabriel Valley poultry plant operators face 43 felony counts of wage theft, insurance fraud

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 09: Sheriff Alex Villanueva attends a press conference to announce a new sheriff's task force targeting wage theft on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva attends a news conference to announce a wage theft task force last year. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

An Arcadia couple accused of insurance fraud and wage theft are facing dozens of felony charges after authorities alleged they underreported payroll to workers’ compensation insurance carriers and underpaid employees at their poultry processing business.

Feng Wu Lam, 49, and her husband, Wei Wen Wu, 54, each face 43 felony counts — 34 counts of grand theft of labor, six counts of insurance fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wage theft, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office announced Thursday.

The criminal complaint includes a special allegation of theft in excess of $500,000, prosecutors said. Lam and Wu also face two misdemeanor counts of wage theft each.

“Wage theft takes hard-earned money away from working people and their families,” Dist. Atty. George Gascón said. “Unfair business practices like these affect not just workers but also hurt our community by putting law-abiding employers at a competitive disadvantage.”

Lam owns the South El Monte-based Golden Food Inc., a poultry processing company, prosecutors said. Wu is the company’s manager.

Authorities allege the couple underreported their payroll to their workers’ compensation insurance carriers by roughly $4.5 million between 2015 and 2019.

The underreporting allowed them to avoid about $1.7 million in insurance premiums, prosecutors said.

Wu and Lam are also accused of underpaying their 34 employees by at least $437,542, prosecutors said.

California Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower said many wage theft victims “go unheard and unnoticed,” noting that the unfair business practice also gives cheating employers an unfair advantage.

State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara also spoke out against the couple’s alleged crimes and said workers’ compensation fraud can lead to higher insurance premiums for employers who follow the rules, “and may ultimately hurt workers who are legitimately injured on the job.”

Wu and Lam are scheduled to be arraigned March 29.

Authorities asked anyone who believes they are the victim of wage theft to call investigator Eduardo Martinez of the California labor commissioner’s office at (818) 901-5305 or email him at [email protected]

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

https://news.yahoo.com/san-gabriel-valley-poultry-plant-042149561.html