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Sewing Contractor Sentenced for Labor Violations

Mindy Wong, former owner of Manhattan sewing business Devine Fashion Corp., headed to jail for tax evasion and failure to withhold payroll taxes.

A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced the former owner of a Manhattan sewing business to five months in prison for federal tax violations.

This story first appeared in the September 24, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Mindy Wong, 36, pleaded guilty in March to one count each of payroll tax evasion and failure to withhold and “pay over” payroll taxes.

Wong, a resident of Jackson Heights, in New York’s Queens borough, owned and operated Devine Fashion Corp. with her husband, Andres Ortiz. The company performed subcontracted sewing work for apparel makers in the city.

According to a criminal complaint prompted by an Internal Revenue Service investigation, Wong regularly compensated employees in cash and failed to pay federal taxes. From 2003 through 2006, the company paid its workforce more than $2.2 million in cash and did not properly remit more than $347,000 to the IRS, authorities said.

Judge Barbara Jones of Manhattan District Court also sentenced Wong to three years of supervised release.

“While we’re obviously dissatisfied that Ms. Wong will be serving time in prison, we’re grateful in this case that Judge Jones recognized that the circumstances of the case warranted a significant departure from the recommended sentencing guidelines,” said Alexander Eisemann, Wong’s attorney. “This is because it was never my client’s intent to help her employees evade their tax responsibilities. It was only because the current climate makes it very difficult to employ undocumented aliens without facing criminal prosecution.”

Separate charges are still pending against Ortiz.

In April, the New York State Department of Labor said its own investigation had shown that Wong and Ortiz continued to operate under the new name Technical Garment USA Co. Inc. It accused the new company of further labor violations, including failure to pay overtime and breaking the state’s day of rest requirement. The agency issued the firm a notice of violation for failing to register as an apparel maker with the state.