A California hemp company and its owner have entered a not guilty plea to felony charges after it failed to pay wages due employees.
The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office charged Castle Management and its owner David Wayne Jenkins with a total of 33 felony counts and violations of unemployment and labor codes.
Jenkins and Castle are accused of grand theft of labor and misdemeanor petty theft of labor. The charges carry a potential 10-year prison sentence.
Fined & shut down
Castle subsidiary Castillo Seed Company, Half Moon Bay, California, was shut down by the California Labor Commissioner’s Office early this year following employee complaints that they had not been paid for two months. State labor officials fined Castle $33,000 and ordered its closure after Castillo continued to have employees work without insurance. Castillo operated from January 2020 until the forced shutdown March.
The shutdown followed a probe of Castillo’s employment records after workers said the company informed them business had declined badly during the coronavirus pandemic and that their pay would be delayed. The employees reportedly worked without pay in December 2020 and January 2021.
Tax reporting violation
Castle is also alleged to have withheld taxes from employee paychecks which it failed to report to California’s Employment Development Department.
The workers claim $138,000 in wages went unpaid. Prosecutors said Castle has paid more than $100,000 in back wages to the former employees, and has indicated it intends to continue to make payments.