Tuesday, September 26, 2023
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Ponzi Was Part of the Job, Manager Says

SANTA BARBARA (CN) - An assistant manager claims her boss at Taco Bell forced employees to cough up $100 from each paycheck "to participate in a secretive, Mexican-inspired Ponzi scheme, sometimes called a 'Tanda,'" and fired her when she finally refused to do it anymore.

Jeorgina Cervantes De Gomez sued Taco Bell of Lompoc and Robert Coe, though Coe is not the person accused of forcing workers to participate in the Ponzi scheme. Cervantes says Taco Bell manager Doralinda Vargas is the one who did that. Vargas, however, is not named as a defendant in the Superior Court complaint.

Cervantes says she was fired with no notice in June this year after she finally told Vargas she wouldn't pony up the $100.

Cervantes says the shenanigans happened at the Taco Bell at Fairview and Calle Real in Goleta.

The complaint states: "For approximately two years, TB's restaurant manager for the Fairview/Calle Real location, Doralinda Vargas, pressured plaintiff and other subordinates to participate in a secretive, Mexican-inspired Ponzi scheme, sometimes called a 'Tanda.' Ms. Vargas forced each employee to contribute one hundred dollars ($100) from his or her paycheck every payday to fund this illegal scheme. Growing tired of being forced to contribute the money from her paycheck each payday, plaintiff refused to participate any further.

"On or about June 1, 2011, Ms. Vargas threatened plaintiff with termination if plaintiff did not agree to continuing giving back to Ms. Vargas every payday $100. Plaintiff refused to participate in this unlawful act. As a result, plaintiff's employment was terminated with no notice."

Cervantes claims Taco Bell also failed to pay her wages owed.

She claims defendant Coe dba Taco Bell of Lompoc "knew or should have known of the illegal deduction wages from the plaintiff and the other employees. Moreover, defendant further ratified Ms. Vargas' conduct when he was explicitly notified about the scheme and failed to take any remedial measures."

Cervantes seeks wages owed and compensatory and punitive damages for wrongful firing and Labor Code violations.

She is represented by Robert Zeman of Santa Barbara.

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