REDWOOD – The operator of a defunct hemp farm, Half Moon Bay, has been charged with massive theft for failing to pay its workers, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office.
On Tuesday afternoon, 37-year-old David Wayne Jenkins Jr. of Houston, Texas, pleaded not guilty to 33 counts of major theft of labor, as well as petty theft of labor and multiple violations of the labor code and unemployment, said in the prosecutor’s office.
If convicted on all counts, Jenkins faces more than 10 years in prison, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.
Jenkins was the owner of Castle Management, also known as Castillo Seed, which operated a hemp farm in Half Moon Bay from January 2020 until it closed in March 2021.
Prosecutors said the business and Jenkins ran out of money due to repeated failures to grow and sell the crop. To keep his employees working, Jenkins allegedly promised payouts soon, and they worked unpaid throughout December 2020 and January 2021.
Prosecutors said that until December 2020, Jenkins withheld taxes and other deductions from each employee’s salary, but he was unable to report or transfer any deductions to the Employment Development Department or EDD while the business was running.
Jenkins also lost his workers’ compensation insurance on December 29, 2020 due to non-payment of insurance premiums, but his employees continued to work until the California Department of Industrial Relations issued a termination order on January 28, 2021, prosecutors said.
In all, prosecutors said they suffered losses of $ 138,000 due to non-payment of wages.
“The victims were very poor coastal residents who were severely affected by the loss of income during the Christmas season,” Wagstaff said. “But he started restitution, and we hope that all victims will receive full payment for their work.”
Prosecutors said Jenkins paid $ 107,000 to former employees and is expected to continue to pay damages.
Jenkins’ attorneys did not immediately respond to messages requesting comment on the case.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for February 24. Jenkins is under recognizance not to leave.