On April 28th, 2015

Three Businessmen Charged For Taking Workers’ Wages

csleaSANTA ANA – Three businessmen have been charged for defrauding employees by taking their wages on a public works project.  The wage theft was first investigated by the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR).  After issuing a Civil Wage and Penalty, DIR then referred the case to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office for criminal enforcement.

"Wage theft works against hardworking individuals, their families and the communities in which they live," said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona.  "Those who investigate wage theft are not only seeking justice for the victims, they are protecting the state's economy."

According to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, between October 2006 and December 2012, Saeed Kenari, 54, operator of  Sunland Fire Protection (SFP) in Glendale, conspired to take a portion of his workers’ wages on SFP’s public works projects from newly immigrated workers who were not familiar with the law.

Kenari,his bookeeper, Rina Arakelian, 62, of Glendale, and his office worker and estimator Shahan Haider Zaidi, 44, of Long Beach, are each accused of falsifying SFP payroll records in order to conceal the hours worked by employees who were not paid their full wage. Kenari is accused of failing to report more than  $1 million in payroll to the Employment Development Department resulting in a loss of more than  $100,000.  Kenari is accused of accepting public works projects for SFP in both Los Angeles and Orange County.

Here's how the charges stack up:

Saeed Kenari

  • four felony counts of conspiring to take a portion of workers’ wages on a public works project,
  • 34 felony counts of taking workers’ wages on a public works project,
  • 20 felony counts of failure to pay taxes,
  • four felony counts of conspiracy to commit a crime,
  • and 10 felony counts of conspiring to file a false or forged document with a sentencing enhancement allegation for property loss over $200,000.

If convicted, Kenari faces a maximum sentence of 56 years and three months in state prison. He is scheduled for pre-trial on May 15, 2015, in Santa Ana.

Rina Arakelian

  • four felony counts of conspiring to take a portion of workers’ wages on a public works project,
  • 34 felony counts of taking workers’ wages on a public works project,
  • four felony counts of conspiracy to commit a crime,
  • and 10 felony counts of conspiring to file a false or forged document with a sentencing enhancement allegation for property loss over $200,000.

If convicted, Arakelian faces a maximum sentence of 27 years in state prison. Arakelian is scheduled for continued arraignment on May 15, 2015

Shahan Haider Zaidi

  • four felony counts of conspiracy to commit fraud.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of five years and six months in state prison.  As of April 27, 2015, Zaidi remains a fugitive.

 “These types of crimes have an incredibly negative impact on both workers and on our state economy,” said Christine Baker, director of DIR. “We will continue to hold employers like these accountable for failing to follow laws that protect workers as well as businesses that play by the rules.” The Labor Commissioner’s Office is a division of the DIR.

Orange County  Deputy District Attorney Donde McCament of the Workman’s Compensation Fraud Unit is prosecuting this case.

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