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LA Bakeshop Owners Forced to Pay $15 Million in Human Trafficking Violations

A sad, scary situation has come to a close

L'Amande French Bakery, Torrance
L'Amande French Bakery, Torrance
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Last year, local South Bay option L’Amande French Bakery was forced to shutter their secondary Beverly Hills location while dealing with a multi-million dollar lawsuit brought against them by 11 Filipino workers who say there were forced to work long hours for less than minimum wage after being brought to the States with the promise of a job. Today that case has been settled to the tune of $15 million, says the Daily Breeze.

It’s a striking end to a legal battle that led L’Amande owners Ana and Goncalo Santos Moitinho de Almeida to shutter in Beverly Hills and, soon after, their original outlet in Torrance. They also attempted, per the report, to liquidate the large majority of their assets by selling off some real estate in Long Beach and seeking to transfer the deed to their home in Rolling Hills, CA to a relative.

According to the original lawsuit, the couple used America’s E-2 visa program to bring nearly a dozen Filipino workers to the United States back in 2012, with alleged promises of higher-paying work. Instead, the lawsuit says, the couple routinely paid $3 per hour or less for the employees, forcing them to work endless hours without breaks while sleeping on the family’s floor.

For their part, the L’Amande French Bakery owners say the allegations couldn’t be further from the truth. They’ve routinely denied the claims to the Daily Breeze in the past year, and even set up a bizarre website called Justice for L’Amande Bakery which attempts to smear the workers who brought the suit.

After neither of the two showed up in court for oral arguments on May 2, a U.S. District Court judged issued a ruling against them for $15 million in total, which includes attorney’s fees, compensatory damages for human trafficking, punitive damages to the tune of nearly $4 million, and a variety of wage and labor law violations.