The owner of a tortilla factory in East Williamsburg where a man was crushed to death has been sentenced to 90 days in jail.
Erasmo Ponce, owner of Tortilleria Chinantla, was also ordered to pay almost $450,000 in compensation to workers after pleading guilty to violating wage laws, according to statement by the Attorney General’s office.
Mr. Ponce’s factory made headlines back in January 2011 when 22-year-old Guatemalan worker Juan Baten was crushed to death after falling into a dough-mixing machine.
The factory was temporarily shut down for four days following Mr. Baten’s death. The tragic incident sparked off a series of investigations into the company that uncovered a number of illegal wage violations.
The majority of the fine – $300,000 – will be used to reimburse the Workers Compensation Board for a benefit payment the agency made to Mr. Baten’s daughter Daisy (now three-years-old), who was just seven-months-old when her father died.
According to The New York Times, Mr Baten’s widow Rosario Ramirez, 26, said the money will help provide a better future for her daughter. “It pains me that Juan will not see Daisy grow up … Although she doesn’t have her father’s love, I still wish for her a better future, and the restitution will help. The jail time means Erasmo Ponce did not get away with his crime and Juan’s death will not have been in vain.”
Another $138,000 will cover wages owed to Mr. Ponce’s 28 employees, who were paid less than the legal overtime rates from 2006 – 2011. The remaining $10,000 will go to formerly unpaid unemployment insurance taxes.
Mr. Ponce is originally from Mexico but now lives in Whitestone, Queens. He was arrested by the Attorney General’s office in March 2012 and pled guilty the following June.
Tortilleria Chinantla will remain open at 975 Grand Street and Mr. Ponce will serve his sentence at Rikers on weekends.
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