California hempseed operator could serve 10 years in prison for withholding employee pay

A California hempseed farm operator has been charged with grand theft after allegedly failing to pay employees.

The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office charged David Wayne Jenkins, the owner of Castle Management, which operated the Castillo Seed hemp farm in Half Moon Bay, with 33 felony counts of grand theft of labor and misdemeanor petty theft of labor, along with several unemployment and labor code violations.

Jenkins pleaded not guilty on Tuesday; he could face more than 10 years in prison if convicted.

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office closed Castillo Seed in late January, following complaints that the company hadn’t paid more than a dozen full-time workers since mid-December, Hemp Industry Daily previously reported.

The farm ran out of money to grow and sell crops, but kept employees working with promises that they would be paid. However, employees worked without pay in December 2020 and January 2021, The (San Jose) Mercury News reported.

Before that, Jenkins withheld taxes from employee paychecks but didn’t report this to the Employment Development Department, and he lost workers compensation insurance in late December 2020.

Employees lost a total of $138,000 in unpaid wages. According to prosecutors, Jenkins has paid more than $100,000 of that to his former employees and plans to continue making payments.

A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 24, 2022.