PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Three drywall installation contractors based in Rhode Island are accused of stealing more than $64,000 in wages from 14 workers during the construction of a Woonsocket school, according to Attorney General Peter Neronha.
Prosecutors believe the wage theft happened during the renovation of RISE Prep Mayoral Academy in 2018 and 2019.
The suspects were required to pay the construction workers at least $50 per hour, but instead reportedly paid them between $20 to $25 per hour, keeping the difference for personal use. The contractors are also accused of submitting false payroll documents to the state, according to prosecutors.
Eduardo Benitez, 33, of Woonsocket, 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, 36, of Pawtucket, and Yuliana Gonzalez, 25, of Providence, have each been 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.
Benitez owns three drywall companies; Benitez Y Rojas Drywall, Empire Drywall and New Generation Drywall. Rojas is affiliated with Empire Drywall and Gonzalez is affiliated with New Generation Drywall.
An East Providence contractor was charged earlier this year after reportedly stealing more than $93,000 in wages from workers at the same construction site.
“Working men and women in Rhode Island deserve justice,” Neronha said. “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.”
All three suspects are due in court on Oct. 25.