Conspiracy Aimed at Suppressing Pay for Essential Workers During COVID-19 Pandemic
A federal grand jury in Portland, Maine, returned an indictment charging four managers of home health care agencies with participating in a conspiracy to suppress the wages and restrict the job mobility of essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the one-count felony indictment filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, four Portland residents: Faysal Kalayaf Manahe; Yaser Aali; Ammar Alkinani; and Quasim Saesah — all owners and/or managers of home health care agencies — conspired to eliminate competition for the services of Personal Support Specialist (PSS) workers by agreeing to fix the rates paid to these workers and by agreeing not to hire each other’s workers. This indictment is the first in this ongoing investigation into wage fixing and worker allocation schemes in the PSS industry.
“PSS workers and other essential workers risked their health caring for others at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “The indictment in this case alleges that the employers of these workers colluded to deprive them of opportunities to earn better wages. The Antitrust Division and our partners will investigate and prosecute this conduct to the fullest extent of the law.”
“Early in the pandemic, Maine made additional resources available to ensure that seniors continued to receive in-home care and that essential workers would be able to afford personal protective equipment,” said U.S. Attorney Darcie McElwee for the District of Maine. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is proud to partner with the Antitrust Division to protect essential workers from the type of conduct alleged in the indictment returned by the grand jury.”
“People in Maine have suffered real hardships because of the pandemic, especially frontline health care workers, and we will fully investigate allegations of exploitation,” said Special Agent in Charge Joseph R. Bonavolonta of the FBI Boston Division.
The maximum penalty for conspiracy to restrain trade under the Sherman Antitrust Act is 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of $1 million for individuals. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime if either amount is greater than the statutory maximum fine. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The charges are the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into wage fixing and worker allocation in the home health care industry, conducted by the Antitrust Division’s New York Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maine, and the FBI’s Boston Division, Portland Resident Agency. Anyone with information in connection with this investigation should contact the Antitrust Division’s Complaint Center at 888-647-3258, or visit http://www.justice.gov/atr/report-violations.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.