A Plymouth man has been charged in connection with an alleged wage theft scheme that spans back to 2011 in which he owes $100,000 to workers, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today. He also faces larceny and unemployment fraud charges for failing to contribute to the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA).
Joseph B. Kerrissey , III, age 39, and his companies J. Kerrissey, LLC and Sunrise Equipment & Excavation, Inc. were indicted by a Statewide Grand Jury. The defendants will be arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court on Oct. 26 and in Plymouth Superior Court at a later date.
“This defendant allegedly engaged in a pattern of refusing to pay his workers the wages they were rightfully owed and used a variety of methods to dissuade them from seeking to obtain those wages,” said AG Healey. “We know that workers in the construction industry are particularly susceptible to abuse. People who work hard should be able to provide for themselves and their families and we will continue to hold accountable employers who exploit their workers.”
“When people break the law, steal workers’ wages, and skirt their tax responsibilities, we are always ready to partner with the Attorney General to see justice served,” Robert Cunningham, director of the Department of Unemployment Assistance, said. “We appreciate the hard work of the Fair Labor Division in seeing this through to indictment.”
The following charges were brought against Kerrissey and his companies:
Joseph B. Kerrissey, III
J. Kerrissey, LLC
Sunrise Equipment & Excavation, Inc.
The AG’s Office began an investigation after the AG’s Fair Labor Division received numerous complaints from workers about non-payment of wages on public and private construction jobs. These complaints were received from workers employed by both of Kerrissey’s companies, many of whom performed heavy equipment operation or laborer duties.
The AG’s investigation revealed that Kerrissey allegedly consistently bounced payroll checks to employees despite receiving payment for his company’s work on construction projects. When workers approached him with complaints of non-payment of wages, he would allegedly use various defenses and counter allegations to avoid payment. Those tactics included telling employees that the money should be in the account, that they did not earn the wages, that they had to work for nothing, and that he would take out criminal complaints for their purported “theft” from him if they attempted to use the legal system to obtain their wages.
The AG’s Office alleges that Kerrissey owes approximately $105,000 to 31 workers. On average, each worker is owed $3,000.
The investigation also revealed that from 2011 to the present, Kerrissey allegedly failed to make required contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund on behalf of J. Kerrissey, LLC.
The DUA provides temporary assistance to unemployed workers through the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program, which is funded by employer contributions. Private employers are required to pay quarterly contributions into the trust fund based on the number of workers they employ and how often their workers have accessed UI benefits, among other factors.
The DUA’s Program Integrity Department focuses on the prevention, detection and the investigation of those who defraud or attempt to defraud the unemployment insurance program. Once fraud is detected, the Program Integrity Department works aggressively with the Attorney General’s office and other agencies to recover money owed to the UI Trust Fund.
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.
All of these charges are allegations and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Jennifer Cotter and Drew Cahill with assistance from Investigator Leah Lucier of the AG’s Fair Labor Division, Investigator Colleen Frost of the AG’s Civil Investigations Division, Victim/Witness Advocate Amber Anderson, Massachusetts State Police assigned AG’s Office and the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA).