Several owners of senior care homes in Contra Costa County have been arrested after a yearlong investigation uncovered longtime wage fraud that amounted to some workers being paid as little as $4 per hour, according to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.
Dozens of caregivers at care homes in Walnut Creek, Brentwood, Concord and Antioch were continuously underpaid, sometimes working for 12 to 16 hours per day for $50 to $80 in wages, according to prosecutors.
Police on Tuesday afternoon arrested care home owners Sara Abraham, 76, Annette Sanchez, 45, and Julio Sanchez, 54, of Abraham Rest Homes Inc. and Sanchez Abraham Corporation, and Florinda Yambao, 61, of Floran White Dove Care Homes, after serving search warrants at their businesses, prosecutors said.
All four were charged in Contra Costa County Superior Court with wage theft, tax and insurance violations.
The defendants owe $2 million to some 60 care home employees, who will be paid $1,002,183 in fines and penalties to be split among them, according to prosecutors.
The business owners’ arrests and charges stem from an investigation launched a year ago by the Contra Costa Insurance Fraud Task Force, which includes representatives from the federal and state labor departments.
The task force began investigating the defendants and the 14 senior care homes they own across the county after the U.S. Department of Labor Relations received complaints.
During the yearlong probe, investigators found that caregivers at the businesses weren’t being paid minimum wage or for overtime.
Deputy District Attorney William Murphy said some of the workers are immigrants.
“Too often workers in residential care facilities are working long shifts, being underpaid and then are retaliated against when they exercise their rights in the workplace,” said Ruben Rosalez, regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.
Search warrants were served at the senior care homes last November and in June.
Based on evidence gathered during the yearlong investigation, investigators are also looking into allegations of wage fraud at Scienn Hall Care Homes. On Tuesday, search warrants were served at the third set of care homes but the owners were not arrested, according to prosecutors.
“Businesses should not profit by stealing from their hard-working employees,” District Attorney Mark Peterson said in a statement. “When a corrupt business owner commits wage theft, he or she almost invariably commits tax and insurance fraud. We cannot allow these unscrupulous businesses to gain an unfair advantage over law-abiding businesses.”
Murphy said the care homes would be able to remain open “as long as they come into compliance with state and federal wage and tax law.”
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