Sacramento City Councilman Sean Loloee destroyed evidence related to the operation of his grocery store business, the U.S. Department of Labor alleged in a federal court filing Thursday.
Federal officials submitted the filing the same day dozens of federal agents raided three Sacramento-area Viva Supermarkets as well as Loloee’s Hagginwood house, Natomas office and his wife’s Granite Bay house.
The filing is the latest development in a lawsuit the U.S. Department of Labor filed against Loloee in April 2022 that alleged Loloee threatened workers at his Viva Supermarket chain by saying he would report to immigration authorities those individuals that lacked legal status in the U.S. The lawsuit included allegations dating back to 2009 that Loloee underpaid employees, employed minors in hazardous occupations, and interfered with multiple federal investigations.
In June, Loloee met with investigators several times discuss the “missing production” of documents requested by the acting U.S. Labor Secretary Julie Su, according to the Thursday filing. While Loloee turned over thousands of additional pages, the new court filing stated that the “production in response to the Acting Secretary’s first set of document requests remained deficient.”
In an Aug. 11 deposition, Loloee told investigators that “he had failed to produce certain documents and destroyed data relevant to this investigation,” stated the court filing from Eduard Meleshinsky, DOL solicitor.
He had a deadline to provide additional documents by Oct. 21, but did not do so.
The raid occurred about five days after that missed deadline. Federal officials have declined to share details about the raid.
Loloee and his attorney, Cassandra Ferrannini of Downey Brand, did not immediately return requests seeking comment on the new filing Friday. However, Loloee’s chief of staff Veronica Smith said Friday morning that had not been detained or charged in connection to the raid.
What’s next for Sean Loloee?
During the same Aug. 11 deposition, federal officials determined Loloee is still in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Thursday filing stated. The act includes a slew of federal labor laws, including the right to a minimum wage, overtime, and prohibiting employment of minors.
The case has been going through discovery for a year and a half. Federal officials allege Loloee refused to produce discovery by a certain deadline, so the federal government issued subpoenas for data from the systems the grocery stores use for timekeeping, payroll and banking.
Mark Reichel, longtime former federal public defender, said federal raids of this type usually lead to criminal charges.
“To see a criminal raid like that, I rarely see them not bring criminal charges,” Reichel, who has worked on similar cases, said. “It usually takes about three to six months.”
Reichel said the presence of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security at Loloee’s Norwood Avenue store Thursday indicates the topic of the raid could have been forced labor — a high priority of the agency in recent years.
Forced labor could include situations by which employees would like to leave their jobs but feel like they cannot, due to coercion, duress, threats of harm or threats of deportation, Reichel said.
The presence of ICE at the Rancho Cordova store could indicate allegations that employees were undocumented, or are working longer hours than their green cards allow, Reichel said.
Loloee, who has represented the North Sacramento district since December 2020, is not seeking re-election next year.
His current term ends in December 2024. Sacramento Central Labor Council Executive Director Fabrizio Sasso has called for Loloee to resign prior to the end of his term. If he does, the council could possibly have Mayor Darrell Steinberg represent the district, as he’s currently representing East Sacramento, or hold a special election.