Saratoga Restaurant Owners Convicted of Labor Theft, Fraud

The owners of a Spanish restaurant in Saratoga were convicted Wednesday on a litany of felony labor theft and fraud charges. San Jose residents Pedro Barea-Riva, Maria Esther Narbona-Sanchez and Paulino O’Farrill now face years in prison for their crimes.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office began investigating the case in 2015 after victims reported flagrant labor abuses at businesses run by the three defendants: TapaOle and a hair salon called Utopik. The victims said the restaurant owners lured them from economically depressed parts of Spain to Silicon Valley with the promise of stable jobs, good pay and room and board.

One of the victims wound up working for just $5 an hour. Another was told to come to the South Bay illegally though Canada, where she was caught. And when the woman couldn’t immediately pay off her bail, the restaurant owners withheld her wages and forced her to work for free.

The defendants also committed identity fraud by opening bank accounts and taking out an $800,000 mortgage under stolen Social Security numbers. Narbona-Sanchez also committed welfare fraud by pocketing public assistance from San Mateo County despite owning a home, a salon and a restaurant in a neighboring jurisdiction.

“The defendants spent a decade victimizing vulnerable people and public institutions for their own profit,” prosecutor Patrick Vanier said. “After four years, the victims in this case have finally received justice.”

Their sentencing is set for 9am on Sept. 20 in Department 30 at the Hall of Justice.

One Comment

  1. 44 of 49 felony counts of guilty. It was a long 5 month trial with well over 100 exhibits. It was a one of a kind trial. At the end Mr. Berea-Riva chose to represent himself after his attorney had work hard for him throughout the trial. After Mr Vanier (DA) presented a solid closing argument, Mr Berea-Rva fired his attorney (Ralph Benitez of the ALT Public Defenders Office). Mr Berea-Riva presented his closing argument. It lasted all of approx 3 minutes with 3 objections from Mr Vanier. Evidence was extremely strong!

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