Restaurant Used Fake Priest to Get Workers to Confess “Sins,” Feds Say

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A restaurant chain in California enlisted a fake priest to take confession from workers, with the supposed father urging them to “get the sins out” by telling him if they’d been late for work or had stolen from their employer, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The restaurant owner, Che Garibaldi, operates two Taqueria Garibaldi restaurants in Sacramento and one in Roseville, according to a statement from the Labor Department. Attorneys for the restaurant company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The alleged priest also asked workers if they harbored “bad intentions” toward their employer or if they’d done anything to harm the company, said the agency, which called it one of the “most shameless” scams that labor regulator had ever seen. The Diocese of Sacramento also investigated the issue and said it “found no evidence of connection” between the alleged priest and its jurisdiction, according to the Catholic News Agency.

“While we don’t know who the person in question was, we are completely confident he was not a priest of the Diocese of Sacramento,” Bryan J. Visitacion, director of media and communications for the Diocese of Sacramento, told the news agency.

“Unlike normal confessions”

Hiring an allegedly fake priest to solicit confessions wasn’t the restaurant chain’s only wrongdoing, according to government officials. A court last month ordered Che Garibaldi’s owners to pay $140,000 in back wages and damages to 35 employees.

The restaurant chain’s owner allegedly brought in the fake priest after the Labor Department started investigating workplace issues. According to the Labor Department, its investigation found that the company had denied overtime pay to workers, paid managers from money customers had left as employee tips, and threatened workers with retaliation and “adverse immigration consequences” for working with the agency, according to the agency.

The Labor Department said an investigator learned from some workers that the restaurant owner brought in the priest, who said he was a friend of the owner’s and asked questions about whether they had harmed the chain or its owner.

In court documents, a server at the restaurant, Maria Parra, testified that she found her conversation with the alleged priest “unlike normal confessions,” where she would talk about what she wanted to confess, according to a court document reviewed by CBS MoneyWatch. Instead, the priest told her that he would ask questions “to get the sins out of me.”

“He asked if I had ever got pulled over for speeding, if I drank alcohol or if I had stolen anything,” she said. “The priest asked if I had stolen anything at work, if I was late to my employment, if I did anything to harm my employer and if I had any bad intentions toward my employment.”

The Labor Department also alleged that the employer sought to retaliate against workers and silence them, as well as obstruct an investigation and prevent the employees from receiving unpaid wages.

Source : KWTX