A Fullerton drywall subcontractor for several of Southern Californias largest construction companies was assessed nearly $2 million for cheating 472 workers out of wages and rest periods, the state labor commissioner announced Tuesday.
Fullerton Pacific Interiors shortchanged employees on 26 hotel, recreation and casino projects across Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties from 2014 to 2016.
Industry giants R.D. Olson Construction of Irvine and Tarzanas Sinanian Development were among those employing the Fullerton firm for the projects, which included multimillion-dollar apartment buildings and hotels for Marriott, Hyatt, Homewood Suites by Hilton and the Bicycle Club casino in Bell Gardens.
Workers were paid a daily rate that failed to compensate them for overtime, according to labor officials. Workers were allowed a 30-minute meal period but did not receive rest breaks. Twenty-eight workers were paid below the states minimum wage, which ranged from $9 to $10 during the period.
“Unscrupulous contractors attempt to obscure their wage theft by paying workers a flat rate rather than for all hours worked,” said Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su in a statement. “But a daily or other flat-rate system does not take the place of minimum wage and overtime obligations.”
The $1,964,679 citation includes $1,892,279 payable to the workers and $72,400 in civil penalties.
Alberto Mordoki, operations manager for Fullerton Pacific Interiors, said in an interview the firm disputes the charges. “I dont know much about the law,” he said, but asserted the workers got rest periods and were paid overtime and legal wages.
The company, which lists his daughter Jacqueline Mordoki as president and CEO and his son Charlie Chavez Mordoki as “Responsible Managing Officer,” and says on its website it has over 40 employees, “doesnt make that much money,” he said. “No way we can pay that ($2 million).”
The violations were brought to the attention of the labor commissioner by the Los Angeles-based Carpenters/Contractors Cooperation Committee, a labor-management group that monitors compliance with labor, tax, insurance and safety laws and helps workers recover back wages.
In a press release, the group said it had warned Olson, Sinanian and others of the Mordokis “shady practices, including cash pay” as well as informing them “of the prior record of civil and criminal activity on the part of the head of Fullerton Pacific. But they chose to ignore this.”
In 2009, Mordoki and his wife, Mirella Mordoki, were debarred by the state labor commissioner from working on public construction projects for three years after failing to pay legal wages to workers. Their contracting license was revoked.
In 2007, he was convicted of workers compensation fraud and sentenced to two years in prison.
In another case in 2005, Alberto and Mirella Mordoki both pled guilty to bank fraud for using phony identities to apply for loans that went into default, resulting in lender losses of thousands of dollars.
In Tuesdays interview, Mordoki acknowledged he had been sentenced to prison for his activities but said the sentence was suspended. “That was a long time ago,” he said.
Joseph Cervantes, senior executive vice president of operations for R.D. Olson Construction, said he would have no immediate comment on the Fullerton subcontractor. A spokeswoman for Sinanian said the company would examine the charges before responding.
A new California law, AB 1701, took effect in January holding general contractors jointly liable for their subcontractor employees unpaid wages.
“This law is a powerful tool … especially in the residential mixed-use industry where we see wage theft and tax fraud practices.” said David Kersh, executive director of the cooperation committee. “If general contractors realize they have skin in the game, they will … hopefully take steps to ensure they work with responsible law-abiding subcontractors.”
The projects cited Tuesday ranged across Southern California — in Irvine, Huntington Beach, Ladera Ranch, Glendale, Tarzana, Culver City, Hawthorne, Loma Linda and Chino, among other cities.
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