22 Construction Workers Held Captive Paid $250K

July 25, 2018

The Department of Labor has announced that Full Power Properties LLC, a Chinese developer and the lead contractor for the 650-unit high-rise Silvery Towers project in San Jose, Calif., has been ordered to pay $250,000 to 22 employees to resolve violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) found during a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) investigation.

Acting on a tip that Hayward-based Nobilis Construction used undocumented workers as slaves, agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security served search warrants at multiple sites on August 29, 2017, as part of an ongoing forced-labor and human-trafficking investigation.

According to CBS affiliate KPIX, Job Torres, an unlicensed subcontractor doing business as Nobilis Construction, smuggled undocumented Mexican workers and kept them captive in a warehouse controlled by Torres. Hidden behind a second-story loft wall, workers lived with no running water on wooden bunks. Torres locked the door from the outside and told the workers that if anyone complained he would use his connections with drug cartels to harm the workers' families.

WHD investigators determined that Full Power Properties LLC benefited from the work done by employees supplied by Job Torres. Investigators also found Torres forced the workers to work at other construction projects around the Bay Area without pay. He was indicted on charges of harboring illegal immigrants for commercial advantage or private financial gain.

The Mercury News reports Full Power LLC has also been accused of failing to pay at least five subcontractors for labor and materials at the Silvery Towers project, resulting in  mechanic's liens of $1.8 million.

"The U.S. Department of Labor will do everything in its power to stop employers who violate the law from gaining an unfair competitive advantage over those who play by the rules," said Wage and Hour Division District Director Susana Blanco, in San Francisco. "This case also represents a major victory in the fight against the scourge of human-trafficking."