Back wages of $709,539 could send the owner of a Merriam restaurant to prison for up to 20 years, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Yong Lin, president of China Garden Buffet Inc., pleaded guilty to two felony counts of providing falsified payroll records to impede a federal investigation, said an announcement by the department. The announcement said Lin also could face fines of $250,000, three years of supervised release and restitution.
Lin was not available Thursday when the restaurant was called.
The Labor Department said Lin supplied false records to investigators in February 2013 and January 2014. The announcement said the department determined that the company owed 56 employees back wages totaling $709,539.
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Those wages had been earned though China Garden Buffet violated overtime, minimum wage and record-keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The department sued to recover the back wages and liquidated damages, which is an amount equal to the back wages paid to compensate employees for the delay in paying wages.
A Labor Department spokesman said Thursday that none of the back wages have been paid.
A 2011 investigation similarly found that China Garden Buffet owed back wages of $15,504 to 16 employees, the government said, citing similar violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The Labor Department operates a confidential toll-free hotline 866-487-9243, or 866-4US-WAGE. Information also is available online.