French Gourmet owner pleads guilty to hiring illegal workers

City News Service

The owner and manager of a Pacific Beach bakery pleaded guilty Thursday to hiring and employing undocumented workers since 2003, despite being fined in the 1990s by the Immigration and Naturalization Service for hiring illegal aliens.

Michel Malecot, owner and president of The French Gourmet Inc., a restaurant, bakery and catering business on Turquoise Street, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge relating to his pattern and practice of hiring illegal aliens, according to prosecutors.

The manager, Richard Kauffmann, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of hiring at least 10 illegal aliens in a 12-month period in 2006-2007.

The defendants admitted to repeated acts of re-hiring undocumented workers, even after the company received no- match’’ letters from the Social Security Administration notifying them that the employees’ names did not match the Social Security numbers reported on tax returns.

As Malecot admitted in his guilty plea, there was evidence proving that 91 aliens were employed unlawfully at the bakery between 2005 and 2008.

The French Gourmet and Malecot agreed to forfeit proceeds illegally gained by the bakery from hiring illegal aliens. The parties will recommend a forfeiture amount of between $350,000 and $650,000, prosecutors said.

A sentence hearing is scheduled Dec. 19 before U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan.