The Orange County district attorney’s office has filed a consumer protection lawsuit against a group of building companies, alleging they failed to pay more than $200,000 in wages and state taxes on a construction project at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa.
Zhirayr “Robert” Mekikyan and his wife, Anna Mekikyan, who own Pico Rivera-based AWI Builders Inc. and Construction Contractors Corp., are named as defendants in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court. Tigran Oganesian, a member of Robert Mekikyan’s family, and his company, TOSC Inc., also are defendants.
Rod Pacheco, an attorney representing the Mekikyans, said Wednesday that the accusations against his clients are false.
AWI Builders was awarded a $10.3-million contract in August 2013 to construct a new lobby and entrance area dubbed Plaza Pacifica at the Pacific Amphitheatre at the OC Fair & Event Center. The project was completed in July 2015.
Construction Contractors and TOSC also worked on the project, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit alleges the companies didn’t pay nearly $200,000 in prevailing wages to workers on the project. A prevailing wage is the predominant wage for construction work in a particular region, including overtime.
AWI is accused of creating false entries on weekly payroll reports, fake payroll checks and a second set of books to cover up the fraud.
“In numerous entries … the AWI employers reported paying prevailing wages of approximately $50 per hour when, in fact, workers were paid less than $20 per hour,” according to the complaint. “Although workers were asked to work overtime and during weekends and holidays at times, the AWI employers failed to accurately report the overtime hours or pay the prevailing overtime wages earned by their workers.”
The suit alleges the companies failed to report several workers’ wages to the California Employment Development Department in an effort to evade state payroll taxes.
The companies also are accused of submitting three forged apprenticeship certificates for three ironworkers to comply with standards set for the construction project.
The district attorney’s office began investigating the case after receiving a complaint from an ironworkers union.
Terry Moore, communications director for the OC Fair & Event Center, said officials there learned of the lawsuit Wednesday and was “not aware that documents submitted by AWI to the state’s construction project managers may be fraudulent.”
“We will fully cooperate with the DA’s office and state organizations as this lawsuit moves forward,” Moore said.