The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday it is launching an investigation of allegations that Chinatown merchants have been targeted as victims of possibly illegitimate lawsuits.
District Attorney Chesa Boudin said he made the announcement after reports that lawyers have sent out potentially fraudulent lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in an alleged effort to extort small businesses into paying them. He attended a town hall meeting in Chinatown on Wednesday to hear the concerns of local merchants.
“We will not tolerate exploitation of the Chinese community or any business owners,” Boudin said in a news release. “We know that Chinese merchants are no more likely to violate the ADA than any other business owner and we take these allegations very seriously. We encourage anyone who believes they have been fraudulently targeted to reach out to our office as we launch our investigation.”
The investigation was welcomed by local merchants and disability rights leaders.
“These types of lawsuits are very upsetting, and they do not work to improve access for the disabled community,” said Sascha Bittner, a commissioner with San Francisco Disability and Aging Services. “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.”
Boudin encouraged anyone who believes they have been victimized by fraud to reach out to the District Attorney’s Consumer Protection and Fraud hotline at (628) 652-4311.