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NYC restaurant owners charged for wage violations, fraudulent records

NEW YORK The owners of the two-unit Saigon Grill here were arrested this week on charges that they fabricated financial records in order to hide how many hours their employees worked and how much they were paid.

The criminal charges come less than two months after adistrict judged awarded $4.6 million to a group of current and former Saigon Grill workers in a wage-and-hour lawsuit filed against the restaurant's owners, Simon and Michelle Nget. That suit accused the Ngets of violating federal and state labor laws, including paying workers well below the minimum wage.

Andrew M. Cuomo, New York state's attorney general, said in a statement that the Ngets were arrested Wednesday and charged for allegedly failing to pay their workers legal wages, taking illegal kickbacks from workers and falsifying business records to cover up their actions.

"Like so many restaurants across New York City, Saigon Grill was run on the backs of its workers," Cuomo said. "These workers allowed the business to thrive, and in exchange they were allegedly cheated out of wages, fined for ridiculous reasons, intimidated out of pursuing justice, and then pulled into a painstaking ploy to cover it all up."

The Ngets each face 151 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree, 45 counts of tampering with physical evidence and 46 counts of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree. The felony charges each carry a maximum prison sentence of four years.

The couple also faces misdemeanor charges, including 11 counts of failure to pay wages, 127 counts of failure to keep records and 16 counts of receipt of kickback wages.

According to local press reports, the Ngets have pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

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