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U.S. Department of Labor takes legal action against local liquor store chain over unpaid back wages, intimidation

Mega Liqours & Smoke location at the intersection of Logan and Jefferson in South Bend on March 7, 2024.
Marek Mazurek, WVPE
Mega Liqours & Smoke location at the intersection of Logan and Jefferson in South Bend on March 7, 2024.

The U.S. Department of Labor is taking legal action against a Granger-based chain of liquor stores for intimidating its employees who are owed back wages.

The federal government is seeking a restraining order against the owners of the Mega Liquor & Smoke chain of stores to prevent them from allegedly intimidating and threatening workers out of wages they are owed.

Mega Liquor & Smoke, which is owned by Granger resident Bhola Singh, was found to have violated minimum wage and overtime laws from November of 2020 to November of 2022, according to court documents. The Department of Labor entered a settlement with Singh last fall in which he agreed to pay back 156 employees over $350,000.

However, regulators now say Singh has been intimidating workers into signing forms saying they have been paid back, when they have received only a portion, or none, of the stipulated amount. Court documents say Singh or his representatives would badger workers to sign the forms without letting them read the form's contents.

Singh is also accused of threatening to fire workers for talking to investigators.

Regional Solicitor of Labor Christine Heri is in charge of the case for the federal government.

“The Department of Labor is asking the court to hold Bhola Singh accountable for his illegal tactics to prevent employees from receiving the back wages and damages they are owed and that he agreed to pay. Retaliation against workers is a clear violation of the law,” Heri said in a statement. “We will use every available legal resource to protect workers and end retaliatory practices by employers, including seeking punitive damages for those harassed.”

U.S. District Court Judge Damon Leichty will now decide on whether to grant the injunction, which states Singh must pay back the money owed.

An attorney representing Singh did not respond to a message from WVPE seeking comment.

Per state business records, Singh owns 61 Mega Liquor stores in Michigan and Indiana in addition to multiple City Wide Liquor locations and Frank’s Place bar near downtown South Bend.

Marek Mazurek has been with WVPE since April 2023, though he's been in Michiana for most of his life. He has a particular interest in public safety reporting. When he's not on the radio, Marek enjoys getting way too into Notre Dame football and reading about medieval English history.