Three contractors charged with stealing over $64,000 in wages from 14 workers stemming from school construction work

 

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced today that three Rhode Island-based drywall installation contractors have been arraigned in Providence Superior Court on felony and misdemeanor charges following an investigation by the Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Labor and Training into allegations that they stole more than $64,000 in wages from 14 workers during the construction and renovation of RISE Prep Mayoral Academy in Woonsocket in 2018 and 2019.

 

In total, four contractors have been charged with wage theft and related charges stemming from an investigation into alleged wage theft during the construction and renovation of RISE Prep. Earlier this year, an East Providence contractor was charged with stealing over $93,000 in wages from workers employed at the RISE Prep construction site.

 

Eduardo Benitez (age 33) of Woonsocket, the owner of Benitez Y Rojas Drywall (BYR) Empire Drywall (Empire), and New Generation Drywall (New Gen) is charged with three counts of unlawful appropriation of over $1,000, three counts of failure to pay wages, two counts of conspiracy to unlawfully appropriate money, and one count of providing a false document to a public official.

 

Teresa Rojas (age 36) of Pawtucket, affiliated with Empire Drywall (Empire), is charged with one count of unlawful appropriation of over $1,000, one count of conspiracy to unlawfully appropriate money, and one count of providing a false document to a public official.

 

Yuliana Gonzalez (age 25) of Providence, affiliated with New Generation Drywall (New Gen), is charged with one count of unlawful appropriation of over $1,000, one count of conspiracy to unlawfully appropriate money, and one count of providing a false document to a public official.

 

As alleged in court filings, the defendants are accused of failing to pay and misappropriating approximately $64,000 in wages to 14 former workers for work they performed during the construction and renovation of RISE Prep Mayoral Academy between 2018 and 2019. During that time, BYR, Empire, and New Gen drywall companies performed work as subcontractors under Case Construction Company, the general contractor of the project.

 

“At this point, can anyone seriously dispute that the theft of workers’ wages by unscrupulous contractors is a real and serious problem in Rhode Island? Can anyone seriously dispute that a change in the law, a change that this Office and others have repeatedly asked for, is necessary to deter conduct that causes real financial harm to working men and women and defrauds the state in the process? Yet here we are again, with prosecution alleging that employers stole $64,000 in wages from hardworking Rhode Islanders by refusing to pay the legally required wages and pocketing the difference,” said Attorney General Neronha. “While we were able to fashion a felony prosecution in this case, the fact remains that wage theft under any circumstances must become a felony under Rhode Island law. Working men and women in Rhode Island deserve justice. Until Rhode Island law reflects the seriousness of wage theft, we will continue to see cases like this one. Legitimate businesses will also continue to be at a competitive disadvantage. And Rhode Island taxpayers will continue to lose.”

 

It is alleged that the defendants were required to pay prevailing wage to workers at rates of more than $50.00 per hour. Instead, the defendants paid workers between $20.00 and $25.00 per hour and kept the difference for themselves. It is alleged that the defendants used the diverted $64,000 for their own personal use.

 

It is also alleged that the defendants submitted false certified payroll documents to the State.

 

Under Rhode Island law, wage theft violations, unlike all other theft crimes, are misdemeanor crimes regardless of the amount in wages implicated. Attorney General Neronha has repeatedly introduced legislation to make such crimes a felony in Rhode Island, as they are in other states.

 

The defendants are scheduled for pretrial conferences on October 25, 2022, in Providence County Superior Court.

 

The case was referred to the Office of the Attorney General from the Department of Labor and Training.

 

Acting Chief of Labor Standards, Mark Ryan, of the Department of Labor and Training, and Special Assistant Attorney General Carole McLaughlin and criminal investigators from the Office of the Attorney General are leading the prosecution and investigation of the case.

 

 

 

Remember Bid on the Phone but watch here:  LIVE on O-N TV

The House is moving to block a nationwide rail strike that could deal a major blow to the economy. The chamber passed the resolution in a 290-137 vote, sending it to the Senate for consideration ahead of the December 9th strike deadline. President Biden on Monday called on Congress to force a deal through, saying a strike would have disastrous consequences.       Parts of the Southeast are feeling the effects of severe storms and tornadoes that hit the region Tuesday and early Wednesday. At least two people, a woman and child, were killed in Alabama after a tree fell on their mobile home. More than two dozen tornado reports have been made since Tuesday afternoon, including in places like Mississippi and Louisiana.        President Biden is set to greet the Prince and Princess of Wales this week. On Wednesday, the White House announced they'll cross paths during a fundraiser in Boston on Friday. The Royal Couple is visiting to promote their climate change initiative known as The Earthshot Prize.        A group of Republican senators are calling for an end to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for the military. Republican Senators Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham, Rick Scott and others said they won't vote for an annual defense spending bill unless there's a vote to end the vaccine mandate. Paul of Kentucky said the policy is forcing servicemembers to choose between their medical autonomy and their career.        The first trailer is being released for the upcoming thriller "Cocaine Bear." The film follows a bear on a murderous rampage after it encounters pounds of cocaine in the wild. The movie is based off a true story, minus the murderous rampage, when a drug smuggler offloaded a duffel bag of the drug in the Georgia wilderness and a bear ingested it resulting in an overdose.        Former Nebraska interim head football coach Mickey Joseph was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of strangulation and third degree domestic assault. He was booked into the Lancaster County Jail after the Lincoln Police Department dispatched officers to a residence for a domestic disturbance call. Joseph was placed on administrative leave by athletic director Trev Alberts following the incident.