A former sprinkler contractor has been indicted for allegedly winning a lucrative bid for state work, paying his employees the contracted amount and then forcing them to give him back $81,000 or risk losing their jobs. Sourin Babayan, 64, of Glendale, wound up losing the work when he informed the $820,000 bid for improvements to the state developmental hospital in Costa Mesa was not enough to finish the project and that $2.3 million would be needed, according to prosecutors, who added all of Babayan's workers then lost their jobs and he went on to try to keep them from cooperating with investigators.
Babayan, who kept the money workers gave back under the state public works contract for his own personal use, faces up to 57 years and nine months in state prison if convicted of the laundry list of charges against him, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA).
He was indicted on 14 felony counts of taking and receiving a portion of a worker's wage on public works project, two felony counts of attempted taking and receiving a portion of a worker's wage on a public works project, 19 felony counts of recording a false and forged instrument, and seven felony counts of dissuading a witness from prosecuting a crime, with sentencing enhancements for property damage and/or loss over $65,000.
The defendant is being held on $200,000 bail and must prove the money is from a legal and legitimate source before posting bond, the OCDA announced in a statement that revealed a scheduled arraignment hearing Wednesday was continued to Oct. 18 in Santa Ana.
DJM Construction was the general contractor on the Fairview Developmental Hospital improvement project, which had Babyan and his SDB Construction company working as a sub-contractor. DJM retained his company on Jan. 9 to install fire sprinklers for several buildings with multiple floors for an estimated $820,000, according to OCDA.
Babayan supervised 17 employees and was solely responsible for payroll to complete the job. But between Feb. 15 and June 22, he submitted payroll records to DJM and then received a lump sum back to pay his workers, according to the OCDA, which notes checks were cut for the correct amounts so they would jibe with bookkeeping records. But the sub allegedly required his workers to return a portion of their wages lest they be fired; some charges against him reflect fraudulent and forged certified payroll records.
By the first week of July, some of Babayan's workers had already been in contact with the OCDA. That's around the time DJM let him go over the inflated bid--and also discovered the payroll crimes, according to prosecutors.
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On July 12, Babayan allegedly invited all his employees to his house to pick up their last paychecks--but instead he tried to dissuade them from being witnesses in the prosecution and gave them nothing, according to OCDA.
The Department of Industrial Relations' Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (also known as the Labor Commissioner's Office) joined in the OCDA investigation that resulted in Babayan's indictment.
"This case is another example of the serious nature of wage theft and our commitment to ensuring maximum civil and criminal penalties to put an end to it," Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su says in the OCDA statement.