Tortilla Factory Owner Pleads Guilty to Wage and Insurance Violations
BUSHWICK — The proprietor of a tortilla factory whose employee died in the machinery has pleaded guilty to insurance and wage violations.
Erasmo Ponce, owner of the Tortilleria Chinantla on Grand Street where immigrant worker Juan Baten was killed in the dough mixer last January, pled guilty Tuesday to failing to pay overtime wages, according to the Attorney General's office. He also admitted that his company had failed to pay workmen's compensation to workers.
Ponce, who was arrested in March, now must pay $300,000 to the surviving family of Baten, a Guatemalan immigrant who died at 24, leving behind his baby daughter Daisy and his partner Rosario Ramirez. Ponce must also pay the 27 workers not afforded overtime payment a total of $138,000, according to the AG's office.
A judge will formally sentence Ponce in January 2013. For now, the factory can remain open and he can continue to work there, officials said.
Ponce did not respond to immediate requests for comment.
"Employers have basic, fundamental responsibilities to their employees — and our office has zero tolerance for employers who do not understand that. Minimum wage and overtime laws guarantee a baseline level of income for working people," Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in an email. "Workers' compensation laws ensure that injured workers receive medical care, and that the survivors of employees killed on the job receive some funds to help sustain them in the absence of their loved one."
Schneiderman said that the laws Ponce violated were "essential for the well-being of New York's working people."
"Now there have been held accountable," Schneiderman said of Tortilleria Chinantla. "My office will continue to take forceful action, including criminal prosecution where appropriate, against employers who violate our state's labor laws."