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Senor Tequila Restaurants owner sentenced to prison

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The owner of Senor Tequila Restaurants in Charleston was sentenced to five months in prison for making a false statement to the U.S. Department of Labor in a scheme to avoid paying back wages, according to acting U.S. Attorney Beth Drake.

U.S. District Judge David C. Norton sentenced Jose Jamie Villalpando, 48, last week to the five months’ imprisonment, plus three years of supervised release and payment of a $100 special assessment, according to a news release from Drake’s office. He was also ordered to pay $76,575.92 in restitution to the department’s Wage and Hour Division, the news release said.

Villalpando failed to pay seven employees proper minimum wage and overtime pay worth a total of $106,103.05 between July 28, 2008, and July 19, 2010, the release said.

Instead of paying the full amount of back wages owed, the news release said Villalpando devised a scheme in 2011 to deceive investigators and avoid paying back about $77,000. He wrote back-wages paychecks to three employees and took the employees to a bank already used by the restaurant. At the bank, Villalpando helped the employees set up accounts and had them deposit the checks into their accounts.

Over the next several weeks, though, he had the employees withdraw the amounts of the paychecks from their accounts in increments and return the money to him, the release said.

The restaurant owner then mailed letters, which included copies of the canceled back-wages paychecks, to the Wage and Hour Division stating that he had paid the employees.

The maximum penalty for making false statements is five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, the news release said.

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