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Release Number: 2023-78
Date: November 2, 2023

California Labor Commissioner Investigation Leads to Felony Grand Theft Charges Against Owners of Eight Catalina Island Businesses

Partnership with Los Angeles District Attorney Cracks Down on Fraudulent Wage Theft Practices

Los Angeles—The Labor Commissioner’s Office (LCO) Criminal Investigation Unit partnered with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office in a prosecution of two Catalina Island business owners for grand theft of labor under Penal Code 487(a), a felony.

Jack Tucey and Yueh Mei “Nora” Tucey, owners of restaurant and hotel businesses on Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles, were arraigned on felony charges of grand labor and wage theft, conspiracy to commit grand labor theft, and unemployment insurance fraud.

The total wages due to at least 18 affected workers is $1,032,684. This covers lost wages from July 2008 to October 15, 2022. There may be additional workers affected by the wage theft.

“These employers used sophisticated methods in a fraudulent scheme to pay their workers less than minimum wage, deprive them of essential labor protections and take unfair advantage over businesses that play by the rules,” said Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower. “My office will continue to work with the District Attorney to prosecute wage theft perpetrators and protect law-abiding employers.”

The LCO’s Bureau of Field Enforcement (BOFE) initiated the investigation and referred the case to LCO’s Criminal Investigation Unit (CIU) in January 2022. The investigation found the employer engaged in various fraudulent payroll schemes over the course of many years to avoid paying their workers the proper minimum wage and overtime requirements.

Workers—who were paid less than minimum wage—were required to clock out to avoid recording overtime. The employer did not accurately record the total number of hours employees worked and did not pay employees for all hours worked. Workers had to record their overtime hours separately on paper so that it was not included in the company’s payroll system.

When workers were paid overtime, it was at a reduced rate using aliases rather than their name to hide the overtime hours worked. Employees were required to do preparation work and paperwork off the clock for no pay.

Many of the workers were also tenants of the Tuceys on Catalina Island. Most of the restaurant workers would work at multiple locations, finishing a shift at one restaurant and then going to a different eatery owned by the Tuceys to work the evening shift.

The Tuceys operated multiple businesses on Catalina Island under the following entities: El Galleon Restaurant, Inc., Mi Casita Authentic Mexican Restaurant, Inc., Antonio's Pizzeria & Cabaret, Inc., Original Antonio's Pizzeria, Inc., Food Brokers International, Inc., Catalina Hotel, Catalina Courtyard Hotel and Original Jack’s Restaurant and Bakery, Inc.

Enforcement investigations typically include a payroll audit of the previous three years to determine minimum wage, overtime, and other labor law violations, and to calculate payments owed and penalties due. When workers are paid less than minimum wage, they are entitled to liquidated damages that equal the amount of underpaid minimum wages plus interest.

The Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (California Labor Commissioner’s Office) combats wage theft and unfair competition by investigating allegations of illegal and unfair business practices.

The Labor Commissioner’s Office in 2020 launched an interdisciplinary outreach campaign, “Reaching Every Californian.” The campaign amplifies basic protections and builds pathways to affected populations, so workers and employers understand legal protections and obligations, as well as the Labor Commissioner’s enforcement procedures. Californians can follow the Labor Commissioner on Facebook and Twitter.

Media Contact: Communications@dir.ca.gov, (510) 286-1161

Employers with Questions on Requirements May Contact: InfoCons@dir.ca.gov, or call your local Cal/OSHA Consultation Office