RIVERSIDE, California – Two brothers who owned and managed the El Toro Market in Hemet have been charged by a federal grand jury in a scheme to obstruct a United States Department of Labor investigation that determined they failed to pay overtime to more than a dozen employees.
Jafar “Jeff” Rahman, 44, of San Jacinto, the general manager of the store, was arrested at the store this morning without incident. His brother, Jalal “Jim” Rahman, 50, of Vista, remains at large.
The Rahman brothers were charged in an indictment returned on June 12 that alleges a plot to make false statements to the Labor Department and to obstruct the agency’s investigation that concluded El Toro Market owed 13 current or former employees $47,155 in overtime pay.
The indictment also charges Jeff Rahman with obstruction of justice for attempting to coerce El Toro employees to lie about receiving their back pay.
“Business owners must play by the rules and treat all of their employees fairly,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “The Rahman brothers not only tried to take advantage of their workers by not paying them money they earned, they also lied to federal investigators in an attempt to cover up their illegal actions.”
In March 2008, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division conducted an investigation and determined that the Rahmans’ company had violated federal laws related to overtime. The Labor Department instructed the store to pay back wages to its employees, but continued investigation showed that the Rahmans lied to their employees about the orders from the Labor Department, according to the indictment.
In the fall of 2008, the Rahmans had the affected employees sign paperwork indicating they had received their back pay, which they had never received. The Rahmans also had the employees sign checks for the amounts they were owed, but then they allegedly withheld the checks from the workers. Jeff Rahman, the indictment alleges, sent documents to the Labor Department that included false statements that the employees had received their overtime pay.
In the summer of 2012, as a grand jury began considering the case and issued subpoenas to El Toro employees, Jeff Rahman paid off or attempted to pay off three current or former employees to try to get them to lie to the grand jury, according to the obstruction of justice charges in the indictment. Jeff Rahman allegedly also threatened a fourth employee with loss of his job if he insisted that he had never received his back wages.
“Today’s indictment demonstrates the OIG’s commitment to continue working with our law enforcement partners to investigate those who allegedly obstruct Federal investigations to defraud workers of their wages,” said Abel Salinas, Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.
The indictment charges both Rahmans with one count of conspiracy, eight counts of making false statements and eight counts of obstruction of proceedings. Each of these charges carry a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
The indictment further charges Jeff Rahman with four counts of obstruction of justice. Each of these obstruction charges carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
The Rahmans are expected to be arraigned this afternoon in United States District Court in Riverside.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The investigation in this case was conducted by the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General and Wage and Hour Division. Assistance was provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.