DA Boudin Launches Investigation into Fraudulent Lawsuits Targeting Chinatown Business Owners

SF DA Chesa Boudin – Sep PC

By Elina Lingappa

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – District Attorney Chesa Boudin has announced an investigation into a series of lawsuits and “demand letters” against small business owners in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Chinatown businesses have been hit with more than 1,100 lawsuits in just the last few weeks, and others have received letters demanding up to $75,000 with threat of federal lawsuit.

The lawsuits are on the basis that Chinatown business owners allegedly have failed to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

As CBS SF Bay Area reports, the suits all track back to one individual, Orlando Garcia of San Diego.

According to the lawsuits, the older buildings that house Chinese businesses are not up to ADA code. While DA Boudin acknowledges this unfortunately has truth, these structural problems exist in old buildings across the city.

However, Chinatown business owners are the only demographic facing the large quantity of lawsuit threats.

The lack of consistency and sudden surge in the suits is leading DA Boudin to question the legitimacy of these threats, he said, noting that they are fraudulent and racially charged attempts at exploitation of small business owners, calling them “abuses of the legal process.

“They are exploiting and extorting small businesses,” Boudin said, “Not to vindicate the critical rights or inclusion of the disabled, but rather to shake down and extort those who are already suffering in the wake of a horrific pandemic and a wave of anti-Asian and anti-Chinese hate across this country.”

Other officials have concurred, including Commissioner Sascha Bittner with the San Francisco Disability and Aging Services, who believes the lawsuits are not proactive in the slightest to improve access for the disabled community.

“It is especially upsetting that these lawsuits are being brought against the Chinese community, as businesses are re-opening after the pandemic and as there has been so much discrimination already against this community,” Bittner said.

Harlan Fong of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce agreed that all the lawsuits are after compensation, not any kind of legitimate progress at accessibility.

Officials like Boudin, Fong, and Bittner are concerned that the potentially fraudulent lawsuits are taking advantage of the recent surge in anti-Asian sentiment, economic devastation brought on small business owners by the pandemic, and a language and resource barrier that many Chinese business owners face.

“They’re easier targets for extortion and shake down, and that is precisely why we are stepping in to stand up and stand in partnership with our Chinese business leaders, with our disability leaders, to say enough is enough,” Boudin said.

The District Attorney suggested that local legislation and government aid small businesses with permitting, inspection, and other logistical processes to address structural issues. In this way, businesses will be accessible to the disabled community, while already struggling small businesses will not be threatened with closure from lawsuits.

Until then, Boudin encourages everyone to use the new District Attorney’s Consumer Protections and Fraud Hotline at (628) 652-4311.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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