By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor
Photo: Bessmon "Ben" Kalasho, August 2015
August 9, 2018 (El Cajon)--An exclusive investigation by East County Magazine has uncovered a criminal case in which El Cajon Councilman Bessmon “Ben” Kalasho pled guilty to two counts of workers’ compensation fraud in October 2015 (court case #MD094871). View full documents.
Kalasho was on probation for his crimes, both misdemeanors, when he ran for and won his seat on the City Council in 2016. He remains on probation until October 1, 2018. He was also fined.
His criminal record did not come to light during the campaign because he ran for office as Ben Kalasho without listing his real name, Bessmon Kalasho, with the San Diego County Registrar of Voters.
Kalasho has pulled papers to run for El Cajon City Council again in November.
As owner of “GO Carwash” (now renamed “Car Wash Caffe) in Santee, Kalasho was charged with a “Failure to Secure Payment of Compensation” and a “Failure to Observe Stop Order” on April 8, 2015, related to a worker’s compensation complaint filed by the County of San Diego District Attorney’s office and signed by San Diego Attorney Lina Charry. Kalasho was represented by San Diego attorney Stephen F. Lopez.
Kalasho was specifically accused of failing to pay an employee’s worker compensation insurance. He was also charged with not obeying a Department of Industrial Relations order to suspend or cease doing business until he had secured workers’ compensation insurance.
All businesses with one or more employees are supposed to carry workers’ compensation insurance to protect employees in the event of work-related injuries. When a business fails to obey workers’ compensation laws, the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement reserves the right to shut down an operation and penalizing the business owner.
In California, a business not providing workers’ compensation coverage is a criminal offense misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment of up to one year in the county jail and/or fines of not less than $10,000. In addition, the state has the right to penalize illegally uninsured employers up to $100,000. If a business is found guilty of usurping California workers’ compensation insurance rules, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcements will assess a penalty of either twice the amount the employer would have paid in workers’ comp premiums during the uninsured time (determined according to subdivision) or the sum of $1,500 per employee during the uninsured time – whichever is greater.
According to documents received from San Diego Superior Court, Kalasho received notice of the complaint in a document dated April 8, 2015 ordering him to appear for arraignment on May 12, 2015 at 8 a.m. before Judge Enrique E. Camerena in the San Diego Division of the County Courthouse. He was booked and released on his own recognizance.
Kalasho pled guilty to both charges on October 1, 2015 and was granted summary probation under terms that he violate no laws (except for minor traffic violations) and cannot commit the same violations for a period of three years ending October 1, 2018. He was also required to be in custody of the San Diego County Sheriff at the Central Jail for one day, on top of complying with requirements set by the Division of Industrial Relations.
As a part of the plea agreement reached with the District Attorney’s Insurance Fraud Division, Kalasho was ordered to pay $5,000 restitution and was ordered to turn himself to custody of the Sheriff’s Central Jail for one day’s incarceration on October 4, 2015.
A fine of $10,000 which could have been assessed against him on the first count was stayed, pending successful compliance with all terms of a penalty offer which included payment of all standard court fines and penalty assessments from the Division of Industrial Relations. Kalasho also waived his right to appeal the adjudication offer.
Kalasho has refused be interviewed by ECM and asked not to be contacted since our reporting revealed that he never obtained the required federal employee identification number for the Miss Middle East Beauty Pageant which he represented as a nonprofit. The state subsequently revoked its nonprofit status.
Kalasho has previously received the endorsements of the San Diego County Democratic Party and East County Democratic Club which ordinarily adheres to traditional pro-labor standards on worker issues.
Editor's note: ECM did run a background check on candidates in the El Cajon Council race, including criminal records. A search for Ben Kalasho turned up no criminal records. We were unaware at the time that his legal first name is Bessmon.
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