The owner and managers of a Santa Monica car wash have been charged with allegedly defrauding employees and other employment violations.
The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office filed an 11-count criminal complaint Jan. 23 against Wilshire West Car Wash LLC and its parent company, Maxxam Enterprises III, LLC, as well as the owner of the businesses, Mehdi Soroudi; general manager Gary Pendleton; and supervisors Rigoberto Torres and Remberto Viramontes, said Adam Radinsky of the city attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit.
The complaint was filed after a joint investigation with the California Labor Commissioner against the Wilshire West Car Wash at 2320 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica.
Among the charges, which are all misdemeanors, are grand theft of money and labor by false pretenses; conspiracy; failure to pay minimum wage; failure to give meal breaks; failure to give paid breaks; and taking back wages that have already been paid, Radinsky said.
Soroudi, Pendleton, Torres, and Viramontes are accused of cheating car wash employees out of money and labor over the past four years in a variety of ways.
The defendants allegedly cheated workers out of money by altering employee time records and creating false time records that indicated that the employees had worked fewer hours and took extra meal breaks, according to the complaint.
The defendants allegedly coerced employees into signing declarations which falsely stated that they had received paid breaks, and workers were allegedly forced to pay for cable television even though they were not allowed to watch TV on the job, the complaint states.
Employees who questioned the defendants’ actions were allegedly threatened, harassed or punished, the complaint states.
In addition, the defendants allegedly failed to give employees a paid rest period for every four hours worked, and failed to give employees a meal break for shifts of at least five hours, according to the complaint.
The joint investigation involved the city attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit, the California Labor Commissioner’s Office, and the U.S. Department of Labor.
The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned at the Los Angeles County Superior Court Airport Courthouse Feb. 26.
Each of the 11 charged offenses carries a maximum penalty of one year in county jail and maximum fines of between $1,000 and $10,000 per offense, Radinsky said.
The Labor Commissioner and City Attorney’s Offices are continuing to investigate the case. Employees or anyone with information about Wilshire West and its labor practices are encouraged to contact the city attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit (310) 458-8327.