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Federal appeals court affirms that restaurant owner fraudulently conveyed properties to avoid paying $2.7 million wage theft judgment

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Federal appeals court affirms that restaurant owner fraudulently conveyed properties to avoid paying $2.7 million wage theft judgment

Location: 
New York, NY

CONTACT: Christiaan Perez, cperez@latinojustice.org, 212-739-7581; Kenneth Kimerling, 212.966.5932 x203, kkimerling@aaldef.org

A group of ex-restaurant workers in Kim v Yoo (Case 18-1447) won a new victory before a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Appeals Court. The Panel affirmed the decision and judgment of the late SDNY Judge Robert Sweet, who found that Ji Sung Yoo, the owner of Kum Gang San, Korean restaurant that employed the workers, had impermissibly transferred his interests in three properties in Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn to family members to avoid paying a $2.7 million judgment. The fraudulent transfers left the owner without sufficient assets to satisfy the wage theft judgment previously awarded to his former workers pursuant to New York State and federal labor laws.

“This appeal decision should serve as warning to all employers who violate the law and exploit their workers. You can run only so far, but the law will catch you and make you pay for your treatment of your workers. Now, Ji Sung Yoo and his family face the loss of their properties to pay back the stolen wages. One of the properties on Avenue U in Brooklyn will be auctioned by the Sheriff in Brooklyn on June 12, 2019, said Kenneth Kimerling, Legal Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF).

“Too often, low wage immigrant workers can obtain a back-pay award in court but have no means to enforce judgment to collect from dishonest employers. Here, we used the state fraud law to chase after the employer’s assets. It’s an unprecedented legal approach we hope other lawyers and advocates may follow. However, finding strategic facts will determine when it can be useful,” said Jackson Chin, Senior Counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

Adam Goldstein, a litigator at the law firm of Sherman & Sterling LLP, also represented the workers as co-counsel in the trial court proceedings and on appeal.

Next, the Yoo family faces a civil contempt hearing on June 19, 2019 before federal district Judge Jed Rakoff, who now presides over the case in the wake of Judge Sweet’s unfortunate passing. The workers have sought an order holding Defendants in contempt as part of their ongoing efforts to enforce the trial court’s judgment and order requiring that the properties be reconveyed back to the restaurant owner and used to satisfy the $2.7 million judgment previously awarded to the workers.