Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin announced that Marlaina F. Rapoza (age 41), of Warwick, RI, pleaded nolo contendere yesterday before District Court Judge Stephen Isherwood to two counts of failure to pay wages. Under the terms of the plea, Rapoza was sentenced to one year probation on each count to run consecutive to one another, and ordered to pay $4,798 in total wages owed to three former employees.
Rapoza was the owner of the now-defunct Triple Threat Performing Arts Center in Warwick. Had the case proceeded to trial, the State was prepared to prove that Rapoza failed to pay wages to three dance instructors at various times between January 2014 and June 2014.
Ms. Rapoza is also subject to a civil judgment of approximately $16,000 from a lawsuit filed by the Office of Attorney General for violating the state's Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Under the conditions of the civil judgment, Ms. Rapoza is ordered to pay $200 per month to resolve complaints by 29 consumers for accepting payment for dance lessons that never took place and entry fees for dance competitions for which she did not remit.
Rapoza and the dance studio were featured on the short-lived reality TV program "Dance Studio Rescue," in June 2014, in which Abby Lee Miller, the star of the reality TV show "Dance Moms," would transform struggling dance studios into successful businesses. Triple Threat closed its doors shortly after the episode aired on television.
"Despite the national television exposure and the chance to turnaround her failing business, Ms. Rapoza violated the trust of her employees when she failed to pay them wages and violated the trust of her young students with failed promises of elite dance lessons and competitions," said Attorney General Kilmartin.