- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
- The Attorney General's Fair Labor Division
Media Contact for New Bedford Man and East Providence Cleaning Company Charged in Connection With Labor Trafficking
Boston — A New Bedford man has been charged with labor trafficking, assault, and wage theft in connection with forcing two individuals to work for an East Providence cleaning company, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
Fernando Roland, age 60, was indicted on Friday by a Statewide Grand Jury on the charges of Trafficking of Persons for Forced Service (12 counts), Assault and Battery (1 count), Assault (1 count), Willful Failure to Pay Minimum Wage (12 counts), and Willful Failure to Pay Overtime (12 Counts). The offenses occurred at various locations in Bristol, Norfolk, Plymouth, and Barnstable counties and Roland will be arraigned in each Superior Court at later dates.
Lisa Matthews, age 51, of New Bedford, who is Roland’s live-in girlfriend, was also indicted on Friday on one count of Conspiracy to Traffic Persons for Forced Services. She will be arraigned in Bristol Superior Court at a later date.
Martins Maintenance Inc., the company that Roland worked for, was indicted on charges of Trafficking of Persons for Forced Service (7 counts), Failure to Pay Minimum Wage (9 counts), and Failure to Pay Overtime (8 Counts). The AG’s Office alleges that Martins Maintenance had knowledge of the conduct of its employee, Roland, related to his forcing the two individuals to do work for the company.
The AG’s Human Trafficking and Fair Labor Divisions began an investigation after a referral from officials in Rhode Island. The investigation was conducted as part of a collaborative cross-bureau effort at the AG’s Office on labor trafficking cases along with FBI Boston Division’s Human Trafficking-Child Exploitation Task Force.
The investigation revealed Roland performed cleaning and maintenance for Martins Maintenance, a janitorial and maintenance company based in East Providence that serves businesses in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.
According to authorities, Roland recruited a woman from abroad and within a week of her arrival in April 2016, transported her to various locations and instructed her to do cleaning work for Martins Maintenance.
The victim allegedly worked more than 40 hours a week and during the first several weeks was paid no wages for the work she completed. After that, authorities allege she was paid well below minimum wage and out of the cash she received each week, she was required to return money for housing and transportation to Roland and Matthews. The victim was never paid overtime or provided with health insurance coverage or any other employee benefits. Roland also required the victim to complete household chores, including cooking and cleaning, in his residence where she lived.
The investigation revealed that Roland retained the victim’s passport over various periods of time, including around the expiration of her visa. Roland allegedly threatened that if she tried to return to her home country, she would be arrested by immigration authorities. Roland also on one occasion allegedly physically assaulted the victim, after which she fled Roland and Matthews’ home where she lived.
During the course of the investigation, authorities also determined that Roland forced another victim to do work for Martins Maintenance, for which she was paid well below minimum wage. He allegedly physically threatened her as well.
The victims were allegedly forced to work at businesses in New Bedford, Fall River, Assonet, Dartmouth, Sharon, Middleboro, Plymouth, and Bourne. AG Healey’s Victim Services Division is working with victim service organizations to ensure victims have the assistance and services they need.
These charges are allegations, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
This is another example of AG Healey’s work on behalf of vulnerable populations. In June 2017, a married couple agreed to pay more than $35,000 to resolve allegations they violated the state’s wage and hour and domestic worker laws in a case involving their live-in domestic worker who cared for their children.
The AG’s Human Trafficking Division focuses on policy, prevention and prosecution and includes a team of specialized prosecutors, victim advocates and Massachusetts State Police troopers who handle high impact, multi-jurisdictional human trafficking investigations and prosecutions across the state. Through the Human Trafficking Division, the AG’s Office has charged more than 40 individuals in connection with human trafficking since the law was passed.
The AG’s Fair Labor Division enforces the laws regulating the payment of wages, including prevailing wage, minimum wage, and overtime laws. Workers who believe that their rights have been violated are encouraged to call the Office’s Fair Labor Hotline at (617) 727-3465 or visit the Attorney General’s Workplace Rights website www.mass.gov/ago/fairlabor.
This matter is being handled by Division Chief Elizabeth K. Keeley and Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bourgeois, both of the AG’s Human Trafficking Division, Assistant Attorney General Drew Cahill and Investigator Jennifer Pak of the AG’s Fair Labor Division, Senior Financial Investigator Molly Parks of AG Healey’s Financial Investigations Division, Nikki Antonucci, Chief of the AG’s Victim Services Division, the AG’s Digital Evidence Lab, Massachusetts State Police assigned to the AG’s Office and the FBI Boston Division’s Human Trafficking-Child Exploitation Task Force. The New Bedford Police, Dartmouth Police, Rhode Island State Police and East Providence Police Departments also assisted in the investigation.