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Prosecutors File First Wage Theft Case in Harris County

A Houston resident has been charged for the post-Harvey rip off of a house painter

Elizabeth Trovall/Houston Public Media
This file photo shows Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg during a press conference. Ogg said her Office won’t let employers rip off contractors.

Prosecutors have filed the first ever wage theft case in Harris County against a local man who stiffed a self-employed independent contractor for $2,300, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.

Sonny D. Nicholas, 62, has been charged with Theft of Service for the post-Harvey rip off of a house painter in April 2018.

"This is about treating people decently and obeying the law," Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a news release. "We follow the evidence, and we are not going to let employers rip off contractors, just as we won't let contractors steal from the public."

The defendant's home is located in Southside Place, near West University.

According the DA’s news release, after agreeing to pay the painter $3,000, Nicholas gave him a check for $500 to cover supplies and the check bounced.

After a few days of painting, Nicholas requested a substantial amount of additional work be done, but insisted he wanted it included in the original price, according to charging documents.

When the painter refused to do the additional work with no further compensation, Nicholas became upset and told him to leave.

The painter then asked for help from the Fe y Justicia Worker Center and the Southside Place Police Department.

Nicholas was arrested Wednesday as he made a court appearance on unrelated criminal charges. He faces up to a year in jail a $4,000 fine, if convicted.

The DA’s Office noted that, although the Texas Legislature passed what was known as the Wage Theft Law in 2011, the statute has been used little by prosecutors statewide.

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