Labor-trafficking charges dropped against East Providence company

Providence
Martins Maintenance East Providence

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — An East Providence-based company no longer stands accused of labor trafficking but still faces wage-related charges in a case dating back to spring 2018.

Judge Thomas F. McGuire dismissed seven counts of trafficking a person for forced services against Martins Maintenance Inc., according to documents from Bristol County Superior Court.

Martins Maintenance was indicted by a statewide grand jury in May 2018, several weeks after investigators conducted a court-authorized search of the Waterman Avenue business.

The charges stemmed from the alleged actions of Fernando Roland, who at the time was employed by one of the company’s subcontractors. Prosecutors said Roland forced two women to work for Martins Maintenance for little to no pay at locations throughout Southeastern Massachusetts.

Prosecutors alleged Martins Maintenance was aware of Roland’s actions but the company denied that, claiming that no one there had even met Roland.

The order granting the company’s motion to dismiss the trafficking charges says the evidence presented to the grand jury was “insufficient to establish probable cause” because while there was evidence Roland committed the crime, there was “no evidence presented that Roland acted within his scope of employment.” The documents also say there was no evidence that Martins Maintenance knew Roland subjected the victims to forced labor.

The company’s owner, Manny Martins, has maintained his company’s innocence. He released a statement saying he’s “pleased that the Superior Court dismissed this wrongful indictment.”

“This false and damaging claim unfortunately called our hard-earned reputation into question, despite our outstanding record of success over more than 43 years,” Martins wrote.

“We were shocked to learn about the crimes allegedly committed by an employee of one of our outside subcontractors, and we’ve expressed our sympathy to the victims for what they endured,” he continued. “We thank our dedicated employees and customers for their support during a challenging time that forced us to defend our hard-earned reputation.”

According to the court, the company still faces six counts each of failure to pay minimum wage and failure to pay overtime. A pretrial hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday and a trial date has been set for March 16.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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