Contractor convicted of stealing workers’ wages during Costa Mesa project
A general contractor was convicted Thursday of stealing more than $80,000 in wages from employees who were working for him on a state construction project in Costa Mesa.
Sourin Babayan, 65, of Glendale pleaded guilty to 23 felony counts related to defrauding employees while they worked to install fire sprinklers in a state developmental hospital.
An Orange County Superior Court judge sentenced Babayan to two years in state prison and ordered him to pay $80,200 in restitution.
In 2013, Babayan won an $820,000 job as a subcontractor on a project to refurbish the hospital. He supervised 17 employees, prosecutors said.
The Orange County district attorney’s office has not released the name of the hospital. The only developmental hospital in Costa Mesa is the Fairview Developmental Center on Harbor Boulevard, according to the California Department of Developmental Service website.
During the job, Babayan threatened to fire his employees if they didn’t turn over a portion of their paychecks to him.
According to prosecutors, he falsified payroll documents reporting that he had paid his workers the full amount, for which the general contractor reimbursed him.
About six months into the job, Babayan told the general contractor that his portion of the work would cost $2.3 million instead of the $820,000 originally quoted. Babayan lost the job, and his employees, too, were out of work.
Some of the employees contacted the district attorney’s office about their wages, and law enforcement began investigating with help from the state labor commissioner’s office.
Shortly after they lost their jobs, Babayan invited employees to his house, telling them they could pick up their final paychecks there. Instead of paying them, he tried to persuade them not to act as witnesses for the prosecution, according to the district attorney’s office.
Babayan pleaded guilty to 17 felony counts for taking a portion of a worker’s wage on a public works project and six counts for dissuading a witness from prosecuting a crime.
He originally faced 42 felonies that carried a possible sentence of up to 57 years and nine months in state prison.