A Long Island gas station owner is facing charges for allegedly exploiting employees and threatening to alert immigration authorities about their illegal status to keep them from reporting him, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office announced.
West Hempstead resident Jernail Singh, the owner of MH One Enterprises, which operates the Sunoco gas station on Suffolk Avenue in Brentwood, was arrested this week for a series of alleged violations of labor laws.
Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini said that Singh repeatedly violated state labor laws that include contacting or threatening to contact immigration authorities in the “definition of discrimination and retaliation.”
It is alleged that Singh paid some employees wages as low as $3.30 an hour while depriving them of overtime pay for working between 70 and 100 hours a week, threatening to file false police reports or call immigration on any employees who filed complaints about the working conditions.
Sini said that in one instance, Singh allegedly confiscated an employee’s passport and threatened to call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and file false charges when the victim requested the passport back.
As part of his scheme, Singh allegedly submitted falsified wage reporting forms to avoid paying Unemployment Insurance Fund contributions.
A state Department of Labor audit found that Singh owes approximately $9,000 to the Unemployment Insurance Fund and owes approximately $275,000 in wages, illegal deductions, and penalties for underpayments to 18 employees over a three-year period.
“Every single worker in this state – no matter what their immigration status is – has the right to be paid for their work and has the right to report unfair working conditions without fear of retaliation,” Sini said. “It is unacceptable for an employer to exploit that fear and take advantage of their workers.”
Singh, 64, was charged with:
- Two counts of labor trafficking;
- Scheme to defraud;
- Grand larceny by extortion;
- Offering a false instrument for filing;
- Retaliation under the Labor Law.
Following his arraignment, Singh was released and is scheduled to appear back in court on Jan. 28, 2021. If convicted, Singh faces up to seven years in prison.
“Not only did this employer cheat these New Yorkers out of wages they were entitled to, but his inhumane treatment of his workers was unconscionable,” New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said. “All workers have rights under the labor law and thanks to (New York’s) leadership, we have the tools to go after bad actors who trample on these rights.
“New York State has zero-tolerance for employers who violate the law, and the Department of Labor’s Division of Worker Protection will do what it takes to hold employers accountable and obtain justice for New Yorkers.”
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