The Austin Chronicle

Workers Settle Suit Against Yassines

By Richard Whittaker, June 29, 2012, News

Accused drug dealers and money launderers the Yassine brothers have been keeping U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks busy. Even before he started hearing the federal felony case against the duo and their associates, the judge was already dealing with an unrelated civil case over shady business practices. That one, at least, has been settled with a large out-of-court settlement.

Last September, Jack Webb, a former bartender at the Yassines' club Roial, mounted a class-action lawsuit against his former employers, arguing that they had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act in their eight bars. According to the original suit, the Yas­sines had all their employees feed their tips into two tip pools – one for the bartenders, bar backs, and security, and one for wait- and bottle- service staff. This meant unsalaried staff were forced to split their tips with paid employees. Moreover, the Yassines were not paying the mandatory $2.13 per hour tip credit for non-waged staff, and so were in violation of federal minimum wage law.

On June 6, Sparks ordered all parties to reach a private settlement by June 29, and on June 20, attorneys for Webb and his fellow plaintiffs announced that the Yassines had agreed to settle the suit for $685,000, to be split among the more than 50 employees who joined the suit.

Of course, that still leaves the federal drug case. Sparks had already pushed jury selection back from June to Octo­ber, over concerns that it would be impossible to sift through the huge amount of evidence before then. Now he and federal prosecutors have agreed to give Hussein Ali "Mike" Yas­sine and his brother Moham­med Ali "Steve" Yassine extra assistance in sifting through the documents. Previously, their attorneys were forced to play audio recordings to them through laptop speakers at the Bastrop County Jail. On June 1, Sparks ordered that the brothers can be transported to the federal courthouse in Austin or given access to the Bas­trop jail's multi-purpose room to review the evidence against them. That's no small job: The feds have already handed over 74 CD-ROMs and DVDs of material. According to court filings, one disc – marked "Orange 418" – contains 5,253 texts and recordings. The index of that disc alone runs 202 pages.

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