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Guam contractor who exploited workers could pay $1.6M or more

HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — Parties deliberated for more than eight hours at the District Court of Guam on Tuesday over the case of Steven Wang, the owner of a construction company accused of exploiting hundreds of non-immigrant foreign workers who were made to live in “deplorable” conditions.

The case against Wang is nearly seven years old.

According to court documents, from 2005 to 2009, Wang paid hundreds of workers, who were petitioned on H-2B work visas, significantly lower than the legal minimum wage. He also is accused of illegally deducting $1,000 of his workers’ monthly wages for food, housing and medical benefits, of which some workers have said they could not avail.

“One worker, Li Xin Ming, fell out of the back of a truck and suffered injuries — to this day he can only take on light work,” said U.S. Probation Officer Maria Cruz, who conducted more than 30 interviews with former Wang employees. “His fellow workers said they went to the defendant to seek medical treatment. But he was denied.”

Employers of H-2B workers are only allowed to deduct approximately $320 from their workers’ monthly wages. Anything more than that requires approval from Guam Department of Labor, according to Greg Massey, administrator of the department’s Alien Labor Processing and Certification Division.

Earlier during the restitution hearing, the Office of the U.S. Attorney demanded Wang pay close to $9 million in restitution to his employees from 2007 to 2009, though this was not explicitly stated, and therefore was the cause of further argument.

Eventually, the parties agreed to a restitution amount of $1.6 million on behalf of the workers he’d exploited from 2008 to 2009 alone.

“Even at that, I can never pay it — not even in 20 years,” Wang said, with the help of a court interpreter.

Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood countered, “Well, you’d better. You have 20 years from your sentencing to start paying up.”

Wang pleaded guilty to multiple charges including mail fraud, visa fraud, money laundering and willful failure to remit income taxes withheld from employees.

For mail fraud alone, Wang could face 20 years behind bars and a $250,000 fine.

Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/96262-guam-contractor-who-exploited-workers-could-pay-1-6m-or-more

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