Former San Francisco Restaurant Owner Pleads Guilty To Concealing Facts About Employee Wages
Former Owner of Hong Kong Lounge Restaurants Admits Submitting Forms To The Department of Labor Falsely Stating Workers’ Overtime Wages Were Paid
SAN FRANCISCO – Ming Lian Zhou pleaded guilty in federal court in San Francisco today to a scheme to conceal a material fact from a government agency, announced United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch and Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General Special Agent in Charge Abel Salinas.
In pleading guilty, Zhou, 58, of San Francisco, admitted that he covered up the fact that he had not paid back wages to employees at two San Francisco restaurants he formerly owned, Hong Kong Lounge and Hong Kong Lounge II. On March 16, 2012, Zhou was notified by a representative of the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division that he owed employees of those two restaurants $92,966.51 in overtime wages. Zhou admitted that, on or about March 27, 2012, he signed and submitted to the Wage and Hour Division two Forms WH-56, in which he represented and agreed that he would pay his employees the assessed amount and would mail proof of that payment to the Wage and Hour Division. In April 2012, he deliberately signed and submitted to the Wage and Hour Division 46 Forms WH-58, in which he reported that he had paid 46 employees their overtime back wages. In truth, he did not pay the employees their overtime back wages. He nevertheless signed the forms, and asked his employees to sign the forms, confirming that the employees had received their wages.
This case originated with an investigation by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division into whether restaurants in the Bay Area were in compliance with the Fair Labor Standard Act.
Zhou was indicted by a federal Grand Jury on September 17, 2015. He was charged with one count of concealing a material fact from a government agency, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(1), and three counts of interfering with commerce by threats of economic harm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951. Under the plea agreement, Zhou pleaded guilty to a single count under 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)1(1).
Zhou is currently on release on bond. Zhou’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for January 17, 2017, at 2:30 p.m., before the Honorable Richard Seeborg, U.S. District Judge, in San Francisco. The maximum statutory penalty for a count in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(1) is five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution. However, any sentence will be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Hemann and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Lloyd-Lovett with the assistance of Marina Ponomarchuk and Matthew Swartsfager. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General and the Wage and Hour Division.