Arraignment is scheduled Thursday for the operators of two Corona-based paving businesses, who are accused of engaging in numerous acts of payroll and document fraud that allegedly netted the five defendants around $4 million in ill-gotten gains.
Laura Fitzpatrick, 31, of Anaheim Hills, Alex Trujillo, 26, of Pacoima, and Corona residents Lucia Trujillo, 39, Rick Trujillo, 37, and Sabas Trujillo, 35, are each charged with more than three-dozen felony and misdemeanor counts, including forgery, workers' compensation fraud, wage theft and willful misrepresentation of payroll accounts.
"These types of crimes, or fraud, have a significant detrimental impact upon the economy of the state. They also impact not only the involved worker, but also the competitive businesses that are properly following state law," said Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach.
"It is always important to ensure that all businesses can compete on an even playing field and that they all appropriately follow the same rules and regulations," he said.
The defendants are slated to appear before Superior Court Judge Helios Hernandez at the Riverside Hall of Justice on Thursday morning. They're being held at Riverside County correctional facilities in lieu of bail amounts ranging from $1.3 million to $3.7 million.
According to the District Attorney's Office, Sabas and Lucia Trujillo are married, and Rick Trujillo is Sabas' older brother. The trio own and operate United Paving and its sister company, Prestige Striping Services Inc. The other two defendants were employed there.
The companies specialize in re-topping streets and parking lots.
According to prosecutors, dozens of current and former employees began filing complaints about two years ago, alleging they were being cheated of wages. The complaints were directed to the Inland Empire Premium Task Force, comprised of regional prosecutors and agents from the California Department of Insurance and the Employment Development Department.
The resulting probe resulted in the seizure of computers, bank and payroll records, as well as other documents that enabled investigators to audit the two companies' activities connected to "several hundred projects," according to the D.A.'s office.
Criminal complaints were filed against the defendants last week.
"Public dollars should not be given to scofflaw contractors who ignore California public works laws and cheat their workers from hard-earned wages," said California Labor Commissioner Julie Su.
"This case shows that stealing wages from workers and falsifying payroll records to cover up a crime are felonies," she said. "I am proud of our partnerships with district attorneys across the state, including the Riverside County D.A., to send a clear message to those employers who commit wage theft, tax evasion and insurance premium fraud that they will not get away with it."
In addition to the criminal action, prosecutors have also petitioned the court to freeze $6 million in assets under the defendants' management.
– City News Service.