The manager of a garment factory in La Puente was sentenced Wednesday to 18 months behind bars for trying to bribe a U.S. Labor Department investigator in exchange for shutting down a probe into wage violations.
Howard Quoc Trinh, 43, of Arcadia, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder to serve two years of supervised release after his prison term.
The manager of the Seven-Bros Enterprises factory, Trinh “believed he could buy his way out of trouble — and the rules don’t apply to him,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Julian Andre told the judge.
Trinh was convicted a year ago by a federal jury after less than an hour of deliberations, following a trial in which the defendant testified in his own defense “and was not believed by the jury,” Snyder said.
Evidence showed he offered a $10,000 bribe to a Department of Labor investigator and paid $3,000 of it before his arrest. The investigator reported the attempted bribe and later wore a recording device to a meeting with Trinh.
Trinh offered the bribe to secure the release of a hold known as a “hot goods” objection that had been placed on a shipment.
The investigator was probing Seven-Bros for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets standards for minimum wage and overtime pay. The probe found that Seven-Bros owed about $100,000 to compensate employees for FLSA violations.
When the investigator returned to Seven-Bros, Trinh said he did not owe his employees any back wages, offering to “take care” of the investigator.
Co-defense attorney Robert Shapiro, arguing for a probationary sentence, told the judge that his client made a “drastic mistake” in order to keep the business open for the employees — mostly minimum-wage workers with limited English skills.
“This is a man who is dedicated to his work and the people he supervises,” Shapiro said, asking the judge to “temper justice with mercy.”
But Snyder noted that people who operate businesses that employ low-paid workers have an “obligation” to act within the law.
“To panic and offer a bribe” is “simply not acceptable,” she said.
During a recorded meeting on March 18, 2015, Trinh offered the investigator $10,000 to close out the investigation without finding any violations and to lift the hold. The next day, during another recorded meeting, Trinh gave the investigator an initial payment of $3,000 in a manila envelope.
In a statement to the court, Trinh told of a difficult early life in Vietnam before moving to the United States.
“I made a horrible mistake,” he said of the bribe, “in order to solve the problem.”
Snyder ordered Trinh to self-surrender to begin serving his sentence on Sept. 6.
— City News Service
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