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    Monday, August 26, 2019-8:34:34P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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15 former Tinian Dynasty workers awarded $800K

CHIEF Federal Judge Ramona V. Manglona issued a default judgment on Friday, awarding $800,168 in damages to 15 former Tinian Dynasty workers.

Judge Manglona found Tinian Dynasty’s former owner, Hong Kong Entertainment (Overseas) Investment Ltd. (HKE), liable to pay its 15 former workers for fraudulent concealment and wrongful termination.

The judge also awarded the plaintiffs $405,000 in punitive damages, in equal amounts of $27,000 each.

Judge Manglona awarded a total of $395,168 in compensatory damages to the plaintiffs: Eric F. Dona, $21,650.50; Donny Rivera, $44,601; Melinda Rivera, $19,902; Chung-Liang Chiu, $24,840.20; Shingo Kajiwara, $20,902.26; Han Shao, $21,164.20; Lorenzo Pacia III, $23,132.50; Didith Pacia, $40,601; Ming Yang Yuan, $40,745.50; Chuan Hui Xu, $27,747.50; Flordeliza F. Camiguing, $17,203.50; Jovelyn F. Reyes, $19,382; Richard Julio L. Reyes, $30,632; Ernesto Y. Rivera, $19,902; and Jose C. Cadion Jr., $22,762.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs said the owners and management of Tinian Dynasty — HKE and Mega Stars Overseas Limited — lied to them about their immigration status.

Represented by attorney Samuel Mok, the plaintiffs’ sued HKE, alleging fraudulent concealment, negligent misrepresentation, constructive fraud, and wrongful termination.

In her order, the judge noted that HKE has twice been held accountable — in 2002 and 2007 — for failure to pay its workers back wages.

Given HKE’s history of misconduct, a punitive damages award that is only a factor of two greater than the civil money penalties assessed by the U.S. more than a decade ago is quite reasonable, she added.

Judge Manglona said the plaintiffs have shown that HKE concealed many notices and warnings issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that the CW-1 petitions filed on behalf of the plaintiffs were likely to be denied because USCIS did not view HKE as a “legitimate employer.”

According to the notices of intent to deny and notices of intent to revoke, Judge Manglona said, USCIS did not view HKE as a legitimate employer because of its past labor violations such as failure to pay employees proper wages and overtime in accordance with federal law as well as for criminal conduct related to violations of the anti-money laundering provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act.

The judge said HKE intentionally concealed these facts from the plaintiffs pursuant to an explicit directive issued by then-HKE general manager Tom Liu to supervisors in the human resources department because it did not want the employees, including the plaintiffs, to transfer to new employers, which would have effectively shut down HKE’s operations.

“When the plaintiffs tried to ascertain the status of their CW-1 petitions, HKE lied that their petitions were being processed without issue,” the judge said.

She added that the plaintiffs would have tried to transfer to other employers if the various warnings and notices issued by USCIS prior to the Dec. 8, 2014 denial had been disclosed.

In the same order, Judge Manglona rejected the plaintiffs’ claims for fraudulent concealment and mental anguish.

On punitive damages, Judge Manglona said Tinian Dynasty’s former human resources manager Florine Hofschneider testified that the hotel’s former general manager, Tom Liu, directed her not to tell the plaintiffs and other alien workers about USCIS’ intent to deny their CW-1 permits, and that Liu told her he would “handle it.”

Judge Manglona said the CW issue was of great concern to the plaintiffs, as Mega Stars chairman Wai Chan, acknowledged in a letter dated Jan. 12, 2015, to Tinian Dynasty staff, “because it threatens your legitimate working status in CNMI.”

The judge said the defendants’ conduct in the course of this four-year litigation prolonged the plaintiffs’ suffering and added to the expense.

In Feb. 2018, Chun Wai Chan, a corporate representative of HKE and Mega Stars, informed the court that Tinian Dynasty’s operation stopped in Aug. 2015, and had not generated any income since the hotel halted operation in March 2016. He informed the court that they could not afford to pay for a private counsel in this case.