Seven employees from the now-defunct contractor Ampak Electrical Services were remunerated a total of $50,000 on Wednesday, August 30, with Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg personally handing over the checks for 1,800 hours of uncompensated work.
It was the first-ever payment from the Stolen Wage Fund, created in February of this year in partnership with the New York State Department of Labor. According to the D.A.’s office, the fund “helps victims of wage theft who come forward after a criminal case has concluded and case-related restitution has already been distributed.” The fund is currently still in its one-year pilot phase, after which $500,000 may be invested in its coffers. The Department of Labor vets claimants and refers them to the D.A., which specifies that claims “must be for work performed in Manhattan, reported within one year of a criminal conviction for theft, and filed under penalty of perjury.”
The seven employees had performed electrical work on Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotel in Midtown. Employees of Ampak had reported wage theft in March of 2021, and by September of that year the contractor had pled guilty to a felony count of a Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree. According to the D.A.’s office, Ampak was required to pay $112,176 to 18 workers.
The workers D.A. Bragg compensated had come forward after that payout, after which the company had “folded” and was no longer in a position to pay any more restitution. As such, they turned to Bragg’s office to recover the wages.
“All workers deserve to be fairly compensated for the labor they provide. When Manhattan workers are taken advantage of by unscrupulous employers, we are fiercely committed to making them whole,” D.A. Bragg proclaimed, adding that “I hope the return of these wages provides some closure to these hard-working individuals.”
New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon chimed in to note that “this wage recovery marks a significant step forward in our commitment to justice and fairness for New York’s workers. In collaboration with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, we stand united in our resolve to hold accountable those who look to exploit workers.”
Virgin Hotels is one of British billionaire Richard Branson’s various business holdings (under the umbrella conglomerate Virgin Group). He is perhaps best known for his passionate pursuit of space tourism, overseen by his company Virgin Galactic.