In a rare case of prosecutors going after a business for employing undocumented immigrants, a judge slapped the owner of a popular
restaurant with a $400,000 fine for illegal
Michel Malecot, 59, was spared prison time and his fines and penalties were below the $650,000 sought by federal prosecutors.
Malecot, a naturalized
U.S. citizen from France and
a major donor to local charities, appeared to hire undocumented immigrants at
The French Gourmet out of compassion rather than to take advantage of them,
said U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan, who also ordered five years of
The case has drawn attention from restaurant owners because criminal prosecutions of employers are fairly rare. Federal prosecutors face high burdens of proof to show that employers knowing hired undocumented immigrants.
Rebecca Kanter, an assistant
attorney, urged a higher fine
against Malecot to deter other employers from illegal hiring. The restaurant
employed 91 undocumented immigrants over several years. U.S.
"This is the type of cost that can be absorbed," she said of the nearly $400,000 fine.
The prosecutor challenged the judge's assertion that Malecot acted out of compassion, saying he had a financial motive. Kanter said it would have been illogical for him to hire undocumented immigrants at the same wages and conditions of those legally allowed to work.
Eugene Iredale, Malecot's attorney, said the restaurant owner learned his employees were working illegally after he hired them and "couldn't pull the trigger to fire someone."
"His work has truly been dedicated to helping others," Iredale said.
This is the type of cost that can be absorbed.
- Rebecca Kanter, an assistant
attorney, she said of the nearly $400,000 fine U.S.
Malecot, who pleaded guilty in October to a misdemeanor that carried a maximum penalty of six months in custody, apologized to the judge and said he took steps to avoid illegal hiring. The French Gourmet signed up for a program to verify the immigration status of new hires on a federal database.
Malecot's family, friends and employees packed the courtroom. A boyhood admirer of John Wayne, Malecot came to the United States as a young adult and found success in the restaurant business, opening his bistro in
neighborhood in 1979. Pacific Beach
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.
Hah! Gotcha Frenchie!
This slime hired illegals out of compassion? What about compassion for all the American citizens who also need jobs? I guess we don't count - especially if you happen to be White.
Well, $400,000 is quite a chunk of change. This guy might have to sell his yacht to pay the judgement. Boo-Hoo.
BTW, I'm very familiar with the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. It's an expensive, upscale neighbourhood full of expensive shops and restaurants. I've never been a fan of French food, but I have nothing against it. But this place definitely does NOT cater to the Working class. It has a wine cellar with a value greater than the Gross National Product of Paraguay. You also get the privilege of being abused by snooty waiters, and eating minuscule portions covered with sauces that have enough cholesterol to damn the mighty Mississippi. You can also eat frog's legs, escargot (snails), and cow brains. Yuk! It took me 16 years to get up enough guts to kiss a girl. It would take me twice that long to put any of that stuff in my mouth! LOL
BTW, for those who are not good at geography, San Diego is about 30 minutes drive from the Mexican border. You can even pick up Mexican TV channels from Mexico with a roof antenna. Once when I was visiting some friends back about twenty years ago, I was flipping through the channels on their TV and what do I see and hear? The Marlboro Man and his theme song. I don't know about today, but even in the 1990's, it was legal to advertise cigarettes on TV in Mexico.
Maybe I'm a purist, but being served French food by a Mexican with a Mexican accent somehow ruins the authenticity - or at least the ambiance.