Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced the formation of a new Wage Theft Task Force on Tuesday, a step toward helping L.A. County immigrants and those victimized by grand theft by employers.
During a news conference Tuesday, Villanueva said a UCLA labor center study found that on average $28 million in wages are stolen from families each week in L.A. County, and $1.35 billion are stolen each year.
The theft from employees comes in the form of employers cheating them out of overtime pay, underreporting hours worked or not keeping detailed records of scheduling and payroll, among other types of fraud and exploitation, Villaneuva said.
Officials said that working, poor, low-wage workers of color, immigrant workers and essential workers are disproportionately impacted.
“We’re the epicenter of wage theft in the entire nation,” said Villanueva. “In fact, wage theft is greater (in L.A. County) than all other forms of theft combined.”
In order to enforce these new developments in wage theft in L.A. County, Villanueva said the deputies in LASD’s 23 patrol stations, which includes Santa Clarita, will be trained to look for the signs and elements of wage theft.
He then said after the initial report is filed, it will then be referred to a detective on the LASD Human Trafficking Task Force, who will do an in-depth analysis of the investigation. The detective will then refer it to the district attorney’s office to decide if the case should be prosecuted.
A representative from the District Attorney’s Office said that these crimes could be treated as grand theft crimes, a felony, depending on the severity of the allegations.