Under RI law, $93k in stolen wages can only be charged as a misdemeanor“Can anyone seriously dispute that an employer’s alleged theft of nearly $100,000 in wages from hardworking Rhode Islanders by repeatedly refusing to pay them warrants a felony criminal prosecution?” said Attorney General Neronha.
Published on April 21, 2022
The following is a press release and not an Uprise RI-written news story.
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha announced that the owner of a Rhode Island-based construction company was 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 he stole over $93,000 in wages from workers during the construction and renovation of RISE Prep Mayoral Academy in Woonsocket in 2018 and 2019.
Marcos Mutz (age 48), the owner of the now defunct M. Mutz Construction, is charged with one count of obtaining money under false pretenses over $1,500, one count of unlawful appropriation over $1,000, one count of providing false certified payroll documents, and 12 misdemeanor counts of wage theft.
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.
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As alleged in court filings, the defendant is accused of failing to pay approximately $93,643 in wages to 12 former workers for work they performed during the construction and renovation of RISE Prep Mayoral Academy in Woonsocket between September 2018 and October 2019. During that time, M. Mutz Construction performed work as a subcontractor under Case Construction Company, the construction manager of the project.
“Can anyone seriously dispute that an employer’s alleged theft of nearly $100,000 in wages from hardworking Rhode Islanders by repeatedly refusing to pay them warrants a felony criminal prosecution?” said Attorney General Neronha. “And yet year after year, when this Office has introduced legislation to make wage theft a felony, opponents warn of misguided prosecutions involving ‘innocent mistakes.’ This is nonsense. Working men and women in Rhode Island deserve better. They deserve justice. Until prosecutors are no longer required to engage in legal gymnastics to charge as felonies serious crimes against working men and women, this problem will continue. Workers will continue to suffer. Legitimate businesses will continue to be at a competitive disadvantage. And Rhode Island taxpayers will continue to lose. The time to pass our wage theft legislation is now.”
It is alleged that the defendant was required to pay prevailing wage to workers at a rate of approximately $52.00 per hour. Instead, the defendant paid workers approximately $30.00 per hour and kept the difference for himself. During the investigation, law enforcement learned that the defendant used the diverted $93,643 to pay for tools, family medical expenses, and personal expenses.
Investigators also learned that the defendant also did not pay workers overtime wages, which are required under state prevailing wage law when a worker works more than eight hours in a day or more than 40 hours in a week. It is alleged that workers would routinely work more than 40 hours per week, and not receive overtime pay as required by law.
During that time, the defendant also submitted false certified payroll documents to the State.
The defendant is scheduled for a pretrial conference on May 24, 2022, in Providence County Superior Court.
The case was referred to the Office of the Attorney General from the Department of Labor and Training.
Special Assistant Attorney General Carole L. McLaughlin, Acting Chief of Labor Standards, Mark Ryan, of the Department of Labor and Training, and criminal investigators from the Office of the Attorney General are leading the prosecution and investigation of the case
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