PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The former owner of a now defunct construction company is facing charges after an investigation revealed he allegedly stole tens of thousands of dollars in wages from his employees.
Marcos Mutz, 48, was arraigned on 12 misdemeanor counts of wage theft, along with one count each of obtaining money under false pretenses over $1,500, unlawful appropriation over $1,000, and providing false certified payroll documents, according to the office of Attorney General Peter Neronha.
Prosecutors say the thefts happened during the construction and renovation of RISE Prep Mayoral Academy in Woonsocket between September 2018 and October 2019. Mutz’s former company, M. Mutz Construction, was a subcontractor on the project.
Investigators allege Mutz was supposed to pay 12 employees about $52 an hour for the work they were doing, but he instead paid them $30 per hour and kept the difference for himself.
The investigation also revealed that his workers routinely put in overtime, but never received any overtime pay.
In all, prosecutors claim Mutz stole more than $93,000 in wages, which they say he used to buy tools and cover personal and medical expenses.
Mutz is scheduled to appear in court May 24 for a pretrial conference.
Noting how wage theft violations are misdemeanors in Rhode Island — no matter how much money was stolen — Neronha said he’s repeatedly introduced legislation to make them felonies like they are in other states.
“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?” Neronha asked. “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,” he continued. “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.”