Half Moon Bay hemp farm operator charged with grand theft

REDWOOD CITY – The operator of a disused hemp farm in Half Moon Bay has been charged with aggravated theft for failing to pay its workers, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney.

On Tuesday afternoon, David Wayne Jenkins Jr., 37, of Houston, Texas, pleaded not guilty to 33 grave and minor job theft cases and numerous unemployment and labor law violations, prosecutors said.

If convicted on all counts, Jenkins faces more than 10 years in prison, said prosecutor Steve Wagstaffe.

Jenkins owned Castle Management, also known as Castillo Seed, which operated a hemp farm in Half Moon Bay from January 2020 until it closed in March 2021.

Prosecutors said the business and Jenkins ran out of money after repeated failures to grow and sell crops for profit. To keep its employees on the job, Jenkins allegedly promised payment is imminent and they worked without pay through December 2020 and January 2021.

Prior to December 2020, Jenkins was withholding taxes and other withholding from every employee’s paychecks, but it failed to report or convey any withholding to the Employment Development Department or EDD during business operations, prosecutors said.

Jenkins also lost the company’s employee compensation insurance on December 29, 2020 because the premiums were not paid, but its employees continued to work until the California Department of Labor Relations issued a cease and desist order on January 28, 2021, prosecutors said.

In total, employees suffered a loss of $ 138,000 in unpaid wages, prosecutors said.

“His victims were very poor coastal residents who were really affected by having no income during the Christmas holidays,” said Wagstaffe. “But he’s started making amends and hopefully the victims will all be paid in full for their work.”

Prosecutors said Jenkins paid $ 107,000 to former employees and is expected to continue to issue refunds.

Jenkins’ attorneys did not immediately return messages asking for comments on the case.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for February 24th. Jenkins is out of custody at its sole discretion.