Plumbing Contractors Plead Guilty for Embezzlement and Prevailing Wage Law Violations
Operators of Cheever & Rhodes Mechanical Ordered to Pay Restitution
BOSTON – Operators of a now defunct commercial plumbing business in Georgetown have pled guilty to charges of embezzlement and prevailing wage law violations, after taking more than $100,000 in deductions from their workers and never investing it in a retirement fund, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
Roy Cheever, age 67, of Topsfield, and Keith Rhodes, age 54, of Swampscott pled guilty today in Essex Superior Court on charges of Larceny by Embezzlement over $250 (7 counts each) and Failure to Pay Prevailing Wages (7 counts each). Cheever also pleaded guilty to one count of Failure to Submit True and Accurate Certified Payroll Records. The plumbing business, Cheever & Rhodes Mechanical, LLC, was shut down in December 2013.
“This business took advantage of their employees and misused taxpayer dollars,” AG Healey said. “Our office will continue to protect the rights and unpaid wages that are owed to workers throughout Massachusetts.”
Essex Superior Court Judge John Lu sentenced Cheever and Rhodes to one year of probation. As conditions of their probation they cannot act as fiduciaries in any employee benefit plan or participate in public construction projects in the Commonwealth. Both defendants are also jointly ordered to pay a total of more than $104,000 in restitution within 30 days, of which more than $44,000 has already been paid.
The investigation, following a referral by the Plumbers & Gasfitters Union Local 12, found that from November 2010 through October 2011, Cheever and Rhodes underpaid seven of their employees who worked on the Union Crossing project, a public construction project in the City of Lawrence involving the redevelopment of a mill building. The defendants employed workers as plumbers and laborers to perform the plumbing subcontractor services.
Cheever and Rhodes falsely took credit for more than $100,000 in wage deductions purportedly to fund employees’ individual 401(k) pension accounts, when no such accounts existed.
The amounts withheld ranged between $2,000 to as much as $30,000 per employee, depending on the number of total hours they worked on the project. Cheever failed to submit accurate payroll records by falsely reporting the pension deductions.
Under the Massachusetts Prevailing Wage Law, contractors and subcontracts engaged in public construction projects must pay their employees a special minimum wage. The required wage rate is based on the occupational classification for the type of work they perform. The law also requires that contractors and subcontractors working on public construction projects to submit true and accurate certified payroll records to the awarding authority on a weekly basis. These records must contain the employees’ identities, their hourly rates of pay, the job classifications of the work performed, and information about deductions taken from their pay.
Employers may take deductions from employees’ prevailing wages to pay for contributions to certain bona fide benefit plans, including retirement plans such as 401(k) plans.
Cheever and Rhodes were indicted on Sept. 14, 2015 and arraigned on Oct. 16, 2015.
The AG’s Fair Labor Division is responsible for enforcing the prevailing wage laws in the Commonwealth. Workers who believe they were not paid the appropriate wages are encouraged to call the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Hotline at (617) 727-3465. More information about the wage and hour laws is also available in multiple languages at the Attorney General’s Workplace Rights website: www.massworkrights.com.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Karla E. Zarbo, of AG Healey’s Fair Labor Division, with investigative assistance from FLD Investigator Tom Lam and Paralegal Specialist Noreen Kelly, along with investigators from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration, and with the assistance of victim witness advocate John Malone.