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District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis files felony charges against State Street Grill owners

by Tara Millspaugh

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College area restuarant State Street Grill. Photo by Paige Nelson, Photo Editor.

College area restaurant State Street Grill. Photo by Paige Nelson, Photo Editor.

State Street Grill seemed like any other restaurant near a college campus: cheap beer, slightly rambunctious waiters and an alluring happy hour. But, the owners of the local restaurant have been charged with 21 felony counts violating minimum wage laws and California theft laws, according to a press release sent out yesterday by the San Diego County District Attorney Office.

The two defendants, David Dadon, 61, and his son Barry Dadon, 27, have been charged with workers’ compensation premium fraud, payroll tax evasion, sales tax evasion and grand theft of labor from 23 victims, according to the press release.

However, there are many more victims in this case; many of them are San Diego State students.

The Dadons would advertise for open positions at the restaurant on Craigslist, through word of mouth or a “now hiring” sign. They would offer the job to any applicant willing to work unpaid for the first seven days. The workers were told this was a “training period” and if their work ethic was acceptable, they would be paid after that.

According to the District Attorney’s office, many of the employees who did make it past the training period would work 50 to 60 hours a week and earn less than $5 an hour.

Marketing junior Juliana Bloom is a former State Street Grill employee who has been encouraged to step forward and join the lawsuit, although she only lasted one day of the training period with State Street Grill. A few weeks before fall semester began, Bloom said she was sitting outside of Starbucks on College Avenue when she was approached by David Dadon, who offered her an interview. Bloom, who had never had a job before, said Dadon offered her a job on the spot and asked her to start the next day.

“He told me ‘you work the first week, just as a trial. We don’t pay you and after that, you get paid and it’s just a training period,’” Bloom said.

Bloom said she worked eight hours washing dishes, cleaning tables and handing out fliers. She says she remembers the day the dishwasher didn’t come in and David went out on the street and coaxed a young man into working.

“I worked the first day and realized that this guy was scamming everyone,” Bloom said. “The other workers would say, ‘This is my last (training) day. I’m going to get paid next week.’ But everyone had been there for a week or less.”

Bloom said she didn’t report David to authorities because she didn’t know if what he was doing was illegal or if she was just naïve.

Journalism sophomore Almaz Ayres, another former employee not involved in the lawsuit, said she got paid, but only $5 an hour.

“I would hand out fliers and go back four hours later and he would give me $20,” Ayres said.

Ayres said she went into to State Street Grill after seeing a “now hiring” sign in the window. Ayres, who had no prior restaurant experience, said Dadon told her she could hand out fliers and coupons around campus. Ayres said she was a broke college student and could tell the Dadon’s were scamming students, so she didn’t mind working for those few days for some easy cash.

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said Barry Dadon pleaded not guilty last Thursday to the charges and was released on $200,000 bail. If convicted, he faces up to 18 years in prison and possible restitution to alleged victims. David Dadon faces up to 21 years.

They are both expected to attend court May 29th for trial.

“The defendants in this case repeatedly took advantage of victims who were in desperate need of income and who accepted an offer to work during a ‘trainee period,’” Dumanis said. “The estimated loss in this case exceeds $350,000 and we’re encouraging any additional victims of this heartless scheme to come forward.”

Those with information regarding the State Street Grill lawsuit are encouraged to contact the office of the San Diego District Attorney at 619-531-4040.

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