From NY State Attorney General’s Office
New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on Monday announced the conviction and sentencing of Erasmo Ponce, the owner of Tortilleria Chinantla Inc., a corn tortilla factory in Brooklyn.
Ponce pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in June and was ordered to pay nearly $450,000 in restitution, including the amount needed to cover a death benefit paid by the state Worker’s Compensation Board to the daughter of a worker who was killed at the factory in 2011. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail by Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Alexander Jeong.
“All of our labor laws – minimum wage laws, the workers’ compensation law, safety and health laws – exist to protect vulnerable workers and ensure a basic safety net of protection,” Schneiderman said.
In addition to the jail term, Ponce has paid $447,943.11 in restitution. Of that, $300,000 goes to the Workers Compensation Board to reimburse the cost of a benefit payment made to worker Juan Baten’s young daughter. Another $138,000 will go to the New York State Department of Labor to cover overtime wages owed Ponce’s 28 employees during the six-year period from 2006 to 2011 when they were not paid the legally required overtime wages. The remaining $9,943.11 will go to formerly unpaid unemployment insurance taxes.
Several government agencies opened investigations into conditions at the factor at 975 Grand St. in January 2011 when Baten, who was 22 years old, was killed in an accident. The New York State Workers Compensation Board found that the factory owner had not purchased legally mandated Workers Compensation Insurance, and additional investigation revealed that the employer failed to pay employees overtime wages.
Ponce was arrested by the Attorney General’s Office on March 27, 2012. He and his company were charged with Failure to Secure the Payment of Compensation for More than Five Employees; Falsifying Business Records; Offering a False Instrument for Filing, and Willful Failure to Pay Contributions to Unemployment Insurance.