The partial, perhaps soon-to-be-former owner of two Richmond district restaurants, Hong Kong Lounge I and Hong Kong Lounge 2 (the latter of which has a place on Bauer's Top 100 for it's excellent dim sum) appeared in court this week in a case that dates back over three years involving underpayment of his workers. As the Chron reports, Ming Lian Zhou, 57, was ordered by the U.S. Labor Department back in 2012, following a federal investigation, to pay 48 workers some $90,000 in back wages he owed them. Zhou apparently had no interest in being fair to said workers, or obeying the government, and according to documents unsealed this week, he submitted forms to the department that year claiming he had paid the money out when he had not.
As the Business Times also tells us, the feds figured this out in 2013 and then ordered Zhou to pay the money directly to them so they could issue checks to the 48 workers. But THEN Zhou allegedly just told all the workers to cash the checks and turn the money back over to him, because that's the kind of guy he is. He even allegedly fired workers who refused to do so, and cut hours for some others.
He now stands accused of withholding wages and threatening workers, and could face 25 years in prison.
The restaurant's current owner, Annie Ho, tells the Chron that Zhou is no longer involved with the business, however his name is still on the liquor license and he may still have a financial stake.
The case calls to mind another recent one involving a different dim sum operation, Yank Sing, but pales in comparison, numbers-wise. In the Yank Sing case, owners were found to have underpaid over 200 workers, many of them non-English-speaking immigrants, and were ordered to pay $4 million in back wages last year.