MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Restaurant owner in Tukwila pleads guilty to nearly $1M in wage theft

May 3, 2023, 9:45 AM | Updated: 11:57 am

The owner of the Simply Thai restaurant in Tukwila has pled guilty to wage theft and committing tax fraud from his own employees. (Photo from Flickr @JWalsh)

(Photo from Flickr @JWalsh)

The owner of the Simply Thai restaurant in Tukwila has pled guilty to wage theft and committing tax fraud from his own employees.

Keovilayvanh Rinthalukay, 62, pled guilty to charges of tax fraud and will serve 18 months in prison. Rinthalukay admitted to deducting federal taxes, Social Security, and Medicare from employees’ paychecks, then keeping the money and spending it on luxury items for his family between 2015 and 2019.

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At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge James L. Robart said the amount withheld “is not a small number – it’s a lot of money. And the defendant didn’t find it necessary to pay his taxes for a number of years – it shows no respect for the law.”

Between 2015 and 2019, Simply Thai had dozens of employees, and the restaurant failed to pay the over taxes withheld from paychecks, as well as the employer’s share of the payroll and federal unemployment taxes. While the exact number is hard to determine, U.S. District Attorney Nick Brown said Rinthalukay failed to pay at least $926,092.

“The failure to turn over payroll taxes is simply theft from employees who trust their employer to make those payments for their future well-being,” Brown said. “In this case, Mr. Rinthalukay has committed to aggressively pay back more than $926,000 in tax debt. The prison sentence brings home the need to do right by workers and their future Social Security, Medicare, and federal unemployment benefits.”

Rinthalukay used the money for his personal expenses, including buying property, paying private school tuition for his children, and buying a motorcycle. Rinthalukay currently owns two homes in western Washington that are valued at well over $2 million combined.

Rinthalukay has also not paid his federal income tax since 1998, which the IRS is still investigating. Rinthalukay paid $550,000 of the taxes owed, and the judge has required that he pay the remainder, even if Rinthalukay has to liquidate assets.

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“Restaurant employees deal with a lot: long hours, irate customers, and exhausting work. One thing they shouldn’t have to worry about – their employer stealing from them,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Adam Jobes, IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS:CI), Seattle Field Office. “Mr. Rinthalukay has owned and operated a restaurant for a long time and knows how important it is for his staff to provide good customer service. Today’s sentence is a strong reminder that business owners must play by their own rules and provide good service to their employees. Remitting tax withholdings and not stealing from their workers is a solid start.”

Employees from Simply Thai that feel like they might have been a victim can apply to the federal government to restore the stolen money or credits to their federal benefit account.

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